An Australian developer whose company was set to buy Saddleback Mountain in Maine was arrested and charged with one count of fraud, according to WCSH-TV. Sebastian Monsour, 44, was arrested Thursday in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia after police raided his offices.
Monsour, the CEO of Majella Group of Brisbane, was accused of defrauding a Chinese businessman out of a $5 million investment. The investment was for visa-compliant programs for the Chinese businessman, which was instead allegedly spent on Monsour’s other projects.
The developer announced his plan to purchase the Maine mountain in June 2017, but never provided the money needed to close the sale. It is unclear how Monsour’s arrest will impact the sale agreement. Neither Saddleback’s owners, Bill and Irene Berry, nor the Majella Group could be reached for comment Thursday. Saddleback closed almost four years ago after the Berrys could not raise the $3 million they needed for a new chairlift.
A group that once had been in negotiations to purchase Saddleback plans to approach the ski area’s owners about reviving those talks following the news:
“We see a path forward that can work and we are prepared to lead,” said Crystal Canney, the executive director of the Saddleback Mountain Foundation, a nonprofit composed of area business owners and skiers.
The Saddleback Mountain Foundation reached a verbal agreement to purchase the ski area for $6 million in the fall of 2016, but were able to raise only a little more $1 million before the Berrys opted instead for a deal with the Australia-based Majella Group in June 2017, when Monsour said he planned to make Saddleback the premier ski resort in North America.
Monsour had hoped to close on the purchase by the end of last summer, but the Rangeley ski area remained shuttered for a third winter. This spring Monsour said he had spent “in excess of $2 million” on a deposit with the Berrys to enter into a contract agreement and on research for a business plan to give to investors.
“We wouldn’t have spent this much money on planning it if we didn’t think it could work,” he said in March. “Our focus now is to get the deal done and get the mountain open.”