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FBI Investigation Brings New Attention To Unsolved Burlington College Burglary

A federal investigation into a land deal made by Jane O'Meara Sanders while she was president of Burlington College is ongoing as of a month ago according to reporting this week by Seven Days.
Taylor Dobbs
VPR File
A server and hard drive stolen from Burlington College are still missing, nearly a year after the burglary in which they were stolen.

News of a federal investigation into a land deal by Jane O'Meara Sanders has brought new attention to unanswered questions surrounding an unsolved burglary at Burlington College shortly after it closed in May of 2016.The college had been closed for about two months when police got a report of a burglary. About 20 iMacs were stolen, along with the keyboards and mice.

People working for the college told police it looked like someone with knowledge of the building did it. All of the right surveillance cameras had been disconnected so that there was no footage of the burglar or burglars, and there was no sign of forced entry.

Other stuff was stolen too: A bunch of academic files for Israeli students were taken from a safe, and the school's main computer server was missing, along with an external hard drive that was connected to it. A college-owned van was missing as well.

Corporal Jeffrey Beerworth of the Burlington Police Department got the case. He said the missing server wasn't the only thing wrong with the server room.

“It appeared that there was water, and I could be wrong but I feel like coffee poured on different things. Several doors were broken into,” he said in an interview with VPR at Burlington Police headquarters on Thursday.

Beerworth says this crime was tough to investigate, because it's hard to tell what's missing from a college building that hasn't been fully staffed for weeks and is in the process of being cleaned out.

“Picture, like, the wildest game of telephone you can imagine, right? Because you talk to one person who sends you to another to another,” said Beerworth. “And that's all understandable, given the state of the college at that point.”

Things were in disarray because Burlington College went out of business in May 2016. The closing came after People's United Bank would not renew a line of credit, and the FBI is now investigating whether Jane O'Meara Sanders overstated revenues as part of a 2010 loan deal.

Despite the game of investigative telephone, Beerworth caught a break in the burglary case early. On the same day the theft was reported, police in Troy, New York called Burlington cops to let them know they had a man in custody. Witnesses said he was the driver of a van that crashed into a fence. That van belonged to Burlington College.

Beerworth drove to Troy to take part in the search of the van and talk to the suspect.

Inside the van, police found the stolen iMacs. The police report says there were even some Burlington College promotional banners inside that were used as padding between the stolen goods.

"I expected that .... once we had the vehicle and the computers in there, I expected that we might find that server in the van, and we did not." — Jeffrey Beerworth, Burlington Police

Beerworth seemed to be on track to recover all of the stolen goods and interrogate the suspect, but that’s not how it worked out.

“I expected that server — once we had the vehicle and the computers in there — I expected that we might find that server in the van," Beerworth said. "And we did not."

The server was still missing, and so was the hard drive that was connected to it.

There were still questions in need of answers, but Beerworth was still in Troy, where police arrested a man that witnesses said was the van's driver. His name was Brett Seglem. Beerworth thought Seglem might have some of those answers.

“I was planning on going over to try to interview Mr. Seglem,” Beerworth said. “Once we had processed the van, the detective there contacted the prosecutor and learned that the prosecutor had dropped the charges in New York, in order to accommodate extradition for Mr. Seglem back to Pennsylvania. So he was gone.”

From there, the case went cold. Prosecutors in Chittenden County decided they didn't have enough evidence to place Seglem at the scene of the crime and didn't pursue charges.

Beerworth said he has no solid theories on where the server and that hard drive are.

“The elements and information that I was working with did not speak directly to any conspiracy or grand design on Seglem's part,” he said. But Beerworth acknowledges that the available evidence doesn’t rule that out, either.

This week, multiple former Burlington College officials confirmed that the FBI asked administrators for records related to a land deal orchestrated by former president Jane O'Meara Sanders.

That development makes a pair of missing data storage devices – the server and hard drive – much more interesting, especially in light of this other comment Beerworth made, though he wouldn't elaborate:

“So I have spoken to an FBI agent in relation to the burglary,” Beerworth said.

Just like the details of that land deal, and the apparently ongoing FBI investigation, there are more questions than answers about the burglary of Burlington College.

Taylor was VPR's digital reporter from 2013 until 2017. After growing up in Vermont, he graduated with at BA in Journalism from Northeastern University in 2013.
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