Wretched Ranch

New Mexico property could become embroiled in Epstein scandal

An aerial shot of Zorro Ranch (Mugshot Courtesy Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Department / Ranch Photo Courtesy KRQE)

Federal authorities arrested Manhattan financier and admitted pedophile Jeffrey Epstein last week, and an indictment unsealed Monday accuses him of systematically recruiting and sexually abusing underage girls.

The indictment of the billionaire named two of his properties, his Upper East Side loft in Manhattan and his vacation home in Palm Beach, Florida, as potential locations of his alleged trafficking of child sex slaves, but the wording in the document is just vague enough that another of his holdings could potentially become a target in the feds' investigations, and therefore a candidate for court-ordered forfeiture: an estate in Santa Fe County.

If government lawyers can successfully prove their case, the indictment requires Epstein "shall forfeit to the United States … any property, real and personal, that was used or intended to be used to commit or to facilitate the commission of the offense."

Accusers say his 7,559-acre Zorro Ranch near Stanley—about an hour's drive south of Santa Fe on Highway 41—was also the site of the sexual coercion of children.

Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell, his alleged madame and a woman who Epstein described to Vanity Fair in 2003 as his "best friend," sexually assaulted a then 15-year-old girl at the ranch, according to an 2019 affidavit filed by the girl's sister, who worked for Epstein at the time.

"The Office of the Attorney General has been in contact with survivors, is conducting a review of this matter, and we will be forwarding evidence to federal authorities for proper action," New Mexico Attorney General's office spokesman Matt Baca tells SFR via email.

Zorro Ranch was not explicitly named in the New York US District Court indictment, unlike Epstein's homes in Palm Beach and the Upper East Side. But throughout the 14-page document, "other locations" are mentioned, both as places where Epstein's crimes took place and as properties potentially subject to seizure by the federal government.

Bob Gorence, an Albuquerque attorney who has worked on both sides of federal cases, says that the wording of the indictment leaves the possibility open to state seizure of any property used to facilitate his crimes, as long as the government can win its case and prove that the property was part of the wrongdoing.

"If he engaged in this conduct there, the ranch itself is subject to forfeiture," Gorence tells SFR, though he notes he's not familiar with the particulars of the Epstein case.

One wrinkle: Epstein's name is not on the deed to the Zorro Ranch. Instead, it's a company based out of the US Virgin Islands, a famously opaque tax shelter where Epstein owns a private island. The ranch has been widely identified in the press as belonging to Epstein, however. 

If Epstein is the sole shareholder, according to Gorence, then it's easy enough to seize the property. But if there are other shareholders involved, things get dicey. The owner company, listed as Cypress, Inc. in county records, is not publicly traded and does not have a public-facing website. Data from Bloomberg Research reports a property holding company called Cypress Dynasty Limited based out of the Virgin Islands, a subsidiary of another subsidiary of an investment firm in Hong Kong, but SFR was unable to immediately determine if it's the same company that holds the Zorro Ranch, or who the shareholders are.

Epstein's name last appeared as the direct owner of the property in county records in 2012, and Cypress, Inc. appeared in 2013.

Described as a luxury hacienda, the 33,000-square-foot mansion features an open-air courtyard with a fountain and what appear from aerial photography to be several lush gardens. Epstein once said that it made his New York penthouse look like "a shack."

Another cluster of buildings further south of the mansion is visible from the highway, unlike the mansion itself, which is concealed behind terrain. Cypress, Inc. also owns a smaller parcel of land adjacent to the main Zorro Ranch property, although no buildings can be seen there on satellite images.

According to Santa Fe County Sheriff's Department spokesman Juan Rios, the department has never received calls from or regarding the property.

The property tax bill for Zorro Ranch, about $109,000 according to the latest assessment, is fully paid, according to a county treasurer representative. The assessment values the property for tax purposes at $15.7 million.

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