Swindle in Swanton, VT
Wolfe, who is pressing Bonnie Akerley’s lawsuit, also wants to go after those business associates he believes aided and abetted Byors in recruiting investors. Conant, the Gloucester lawyer, went to prison in Massachusetts for stealing money from clients in an unrelated real-estate deal and was disbarred. He moved to Vermont, where he made snow last winter at a ski resort.Tatiana Bechard was Byors’s biggest victim, losing $1.2 million and the Boston house where she’d hoped to live one day. She remembers going to court in Burlington and watching as Byors was led into the room in handcuffs. She sat directly in his line of vision, but he refused to meet her eyes, staring past her “like a ghost.”
“After he went to jail, I started connecting the dots between all the stories,” she says. “It was actually a relief that he was locked up, because he couldn’t call me anymore. He had become a haunt. Now I didn’t have to deal with him asking for stuff. It was like an obligation was gone — and along with it, everything else.
“He squeezed everything out of me that he could. He had absolutely no conscience,” she continues bitterly, wiping away tears. “Everything that I saved and never spent on myself, it’s all gone. Thirty years of denying myself. I feel like the biggest loser.”
Back in Swanton, life goes on. Dick Thompson, the town administrator, drives a reporter down Route 7. “It’s a sad story all around,” he concludes. “John used to say that there was enough marble here for our grandchildren and our grandchildren’s grandchildren.”
Farther down Route 7, there’s a natural spring near the old Bullard’s Tavern (now a private home), where George Barney, a prosperous local entrepreneur, stopped to water his horse one day in 1870 as he returned home from a speech to businessmen in St. Albans. He was the founder of the original Barney Marble Company and operated other quarries that produced black, green, and gray marble, as well as the bustling mill on the Missisquoi. That day while his horse drank, Barney looked down on the ground and noticed some alluring red rocks. He picked up some samples and analyzed them in his lab. Then he bought the land and opened the quarry that would supply the fabled Swanton Red.
Thompson turns onto a dirt road, unlocks a metal gate, and drives carefully through a narrow tunnel beneath I-89. The road climbs past bogs, cow pastures, and scrubby fields, rising above the wintry mist and curving up to the top of a forested ridge.
Great slabs of marble, streaked red and white, thrust up from the earth, veined and timeless. You can pick chunks of it off the ground. It’s heavy in your hand, a product of the forces that shaped it — the stuff that dreams are made of.
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