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New Mexico ending public land leases near Epstein ranch

By MORGAN LEE and MARY HUDETZSeptember 4, 2019
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New Mexico State Land Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard announces on Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2019, in Santa Fe, N.M., the termination of public grazing leases to a holding company controlled by financier Jeffrey Epstein before his death last month. Garcia Richard says the leases were used to cast a veil of secrecy over Epstein's Zorro Ranch, and that access to state trust land has been blocked since Epstein's death. (AP Photo/Morgan Lee)
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New Mexico State Land Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard announces on Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2019, in Santa Fe, N.M., the termination of public grazing leases to a holding company controlled by financier Jeffrey Epstein before his death last month. Garcia Richard says the leases were used to cast a veil of secrecy over Epstein's Zorro Ranch, and that access to state trust land has been blocked since Epstein's death. (AP Photo/Morgan Lee)

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico top public lands official said Wednesday the state has moved to terminate grazing leases on public land that officials believe was used to help shield a remote desert ranch owned by financier Jeffrey Epstein, who was accused of abusing young women there before he died behind bars.

Officials delivered a lease-termination notice to Cypress Inc., a company controlled by Epstein.

Included in the paperwork were accusations that former Epstein girlfriend Ghislaine Maxwell made misrepresentations on lease application documents.

A lawyer for Maxwell did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the matter.

Maxwell has been accused by one victim of recruiting young women for Epstein’s sexual pleasure and taking part in the abuse — allegations Maxwell has denied.

A portion of Epstein’s Zorro Ranch in central New Mexico extends across state trust land that was under a decades-old contract with Cypress for grazing livestock. The contract was renewed in 2017.

State Land Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard, who ordered cancellation of the leases, said recent state attempts to inspect the parcels adjacent to Zorro Ranch were blocked or ignored.

“The fact that this particular individual was able to use the State Land Office and state trust land to create this veil of secrecy around his private property is something that disturbs me greatly,” Garcia Richard said at a news conference, in reference to Epstein.

State prosecutors have said the leases should not have been granted to Zorro Ranch, in part because there was no indication Epstein’s holding company was in the business of ranching.

Garcia Richard acknowledged there was a ranch manager and “nominal cattle” at Zorro Ranch.

A voicemail left for Karen Gordon, who has been identified as a Zorro Ranch manager, was not returned.

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Hudetz contributed from Albuquerque.

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