New Mexico Officials Preparing to Seize Land From Jeffrey Epstein’s Ranch

August 30, 2019 Updated: September 3, 2019

Officials in New Mexico have determined that land leases given to Jeffrey Epstein had no original justification and are moving to take the land back from him.

“Having fully reviewed the referral from the State Land Commissioner in connection with my office’s investigation into criminal conduct related to Jeffrey Epstein in New Mexico, I am issuing a determination that the State Land Commissioner should immediately retake State trust lands and cancel leases that were improperly given to him,” New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas said in a statement sent to The Epoch Times on Aug. 30.

“The original leases to Epstein appear to have no beneficial use justification to the State, but rather appear to simply have been taken by him to increase privacy and the landmass surrounding his estate. This sweetheart deal must be canceled and reassigned to a New Mexico ranching family.”

Balderas sent a letter to Stephanie Garcia Richard, land commissioner, on Aug. 29 telling her that his office reviewed materials provided by the State Land Office (SLO) and found that her predecessor shouldn’t have entered into lease agreements with Epstein.

“The SLO has a paramount duty to act in the best interests of the State. With regards to agricultural leases, that means issuing leases only for legitimate purposes, like animal husbandry. Based on the materials provided, there appears to be no documentation reflecting that Epstein’s holding company, Cypress Inc., is primarily or otherwise in the business of ranching or animal husbandry; however, the original lease specifically stated that the land would be used for grazing.”

His office’s review found there were no cattle at all on the leased lands, Balderas said in the letter. The file from the office also didn’t justify the payment reduction that Epstein was given or any economic analysis indicating why the lease agreements represented the best interests of the state.

“In light of these conclusions, I am requesting that the SLO exercise any and all potential remedies regarding these leases, including outright cancellation or termination,” Balderas wrote.

Jeffrey Epstein
Jeffrey Epstein appears in a photograph taken for the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services’ sex offender registry March 28, 2017, and obtained by Reuters July 10, 2019. (New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services/Handout via Reuters)

The State Land Office confirmed that officials there want to cancel the leases.

“Our desire to cancel these leases is because we don’t want to conduct business with Epstein or his companies,” the office said in a statement obtained by Fox News. “The existence of these leases wouldn’t prevent law enforcement agency from raiding the house.”

“The rising number of allegations from survivors saying they were trafficked to the Zorro Ranch is reason enough for us to rip these leases in half and seize back this public land,” Land Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard said in a statement. She said the ranch was obstructing official access to state trust land.

The land office said in a statement on Aug. 16 that it was providing documents regarding the land, known as Zorro Ranch, to the attorney general’s office after Balderas announced he would be investigating the allegations that Epstein sexually abused and trafficked underage girls at the ranch.

The two agricultural leases that Epstein held total over 1,000 acres and originated in 1997 and 1999, respectively. The leases were both renewed in 2016 and were set to run until 2021.

“It is absolutely horrifying to discover that we have existing leases with an individual who has caused irreparable harm to so many women and girls. The best thing that we can do at this time is to provide the Attorney General with any and all resources at our disposal to assist with their investigation,” Garcia Richard said in a statement at the time.

“The leases that we sign are legally binding contracts but we are pursuing every legal avenue to terminate Epstein’s leases with the State Land Office as soon as possible.”

Matt Baca, the spokesman for New Mexico’s attorney general, told The Epoch Times in July that authorities were interviewing people who allege they were abused at Epstein’s ranch in Stanley, adding that they are planning to provide additional evidence to federal authorities.

In an interview with CBS News on Aug. 22, Garcia Richard said she hoped that by cooperating with investigators, more alleged victims of Epstein would be able to come forward. She added, “there is a story to be told in New Mexico.”

Part of Epstein’s New Mexico property is on land he leased from Garcia Richard’s office.

Virginia Roberts at Zorro Ranch in New Mexico in file photographs. (U.S. District Court of the Southern District of Florida)

“To say that it was heart-wrenching and sickening to see this man’s signature on state land office documents is an understatement,” Garcia Richard said.

While Epstein didn’t face criminal charges in New Mexico, he was accused in a 2015 court filing in Florida of sexually abusing a 15-year-old girl in several locations, including New Mexico.

Virginia Roberts, one of the girls who spoke to investigators in the 2000s when Epstein was accused of molesting over 100 minor girls, said she was taken to the ranch when she was 17 and gave at least two pictures to federal agents showing her on the land. Maria Farmer, who said Epstein abused her sister, said that Epstein flew the girl to the ranch in 1996.

“She was only 15 at the time and they directed her take off all of her clothes and get on a massage table,” Farmer said in an affidavit. “[Ghislaine] Maxwell and Epstein then touched her inappropriately on the massage table.”

Bowen Xiao contributed to this report.

Follow Zachary on Twitter: @zackstieber
RECOMMENDED