Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal
SANTA FE – The Jeffrey Epstein company that has been leasing state trust land
adjacent to Epstein’s New Mexico ranch is asking a judge to stop State Land Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard from canceling the leases.
Early last month, Garcia Richard announced that she was going to cancel two grazing leases held by Cypress Inc., which was owned by Epstein before he committed suicide two months ago, on 1,200 acres of trust land near his Zorro Ranch north of Stanley.
She held a press conference Sept. 4 where she tore up copies of the lease agreements in front of reporters.
Epstein, a wealthy financier, faced several new sex trafficking charges before killing himself in a New York jail on Aug. 10. In 2008, Epstein pleaded guilty in Florida to soliciting a prostitute and of procuring an underage girl for prostitution.
Two women have said they were forced into sex at the Zorro Ranch, although Epstein had not been charged for any crimes that may have occurred on the property.
According to a petition for court order filed in Santa Fe District Court on Thursday, the Land Office sent a notice to Cypress on Sept. 3 saying the leases would be terminated on Friday.
The notice said the reasons for the cancellations were that Garcia Richard herself was not granted access to the land and that appraisement forms were signed by Epstein’s associate Ghislain Maxwell, “someone who they claimed was not a disinterested party” as required, the petition says. Maxwell has been accused of, but not charged with, abetting Epstein’s abuse of teenaged girls at his various homes.
Cypress disputes the Land Office’s claims and says a representative from the Land Office was granted access to the land 43 days before the Sept. 3 cancellation notice and that the ranch offered the office access to the land after the notice, but the offer was ignored.
The State Land Office did not respond to a request for comment Friday.
Garcia Richard said at her news conference last month that her staff was allowed to visit the ranch after Epstein was arrested in July but that the ranch wouldn’t return calls and she couldn’t get in when she went to the ranch after his death.
Garcia Richard also said the ranch’s grazing activities, with about 40 cows, were only nominal and that Epstein had gamed the grazing lease system to buy privacy for his Zorro Ranch in southern Santa Fe County. “In this particular instance, it’s sickening,” Garcia Richard said, referring to the accusations that girls were forced into sex at Zorro Ranch.
Cypress says in its court filing that it had complied fully with the terms of the grazing leases and that a Land Officer staffer who went to the ranch in July found “nothing out of the ordinary.” The filing notes that at the Sept. 4 news conference Garcia Richard said “we were looking for a reason to cancel these leases” and that her ripping up of papers in front of reporters was “an obviously planned gesture.”
Cypress argues that it was deprived of its due process to try to remedy the alleged violations and is asking a judge to prevent Garcia Richard from cancelling the leases. The company says “the express language of the Commissioner, both in her September 3 letter and at the Press Conference, leaves no room for doubt that the Commissioner has acted unlawfully in deciding to cancel the Leases.”