Criminal investigation of Dreyfus sale |

Criminal investigation of Dreyfus sale

Andy Bourelle

A criminal investigation has stalled proceedings on the use of the Dreyfus Estate, an official from the Office of the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Agriculture said Monday.

“We’re conducting a criminal investigation into the matter,” said David Dickson, the special agent in charge of the issue. “Essentially we’re looking into the way the transaction was made.”

Dickson said he could not comment further but said the U.S. Forest Service has been quiet on the subject because of the investigation.

“The Forest Service has been asked to basically cut off any dealings in the matter until the criminal investigation has been completed,” he said.

However, Don Miner, vice chair of the Board of Douglas County Commissioners, said that shouldn’t matter.

“It’s our understanding that the issuance of a special use permit has nothing to do with the federal government,” he said.

Last year, the Bureau of Land Management purchased the land on which the Dreyfus Estate is located with the help of a group of land-exchange experts called the Olympic Group. BLM transferred the management of the land to the Forest Service.

However, the Forest Service authorized the Olympic Group to sell the buildings on the land. The Park Cattle Co. purchased the estate, Miner said, with the understanding that the Forest Service would issue a special use permit for the estate.

Park Cattle Co. had wanted the estate, which borders the Zephyr Cove Marina and includes a 12,500-square-foot house and six-car garage, to be operated as a bed and breakfast.

However, the forest service “reneged” on the special use permit, Miner said.

If there was any type of criminal activity, Miner said, the forest service could not have been involved because it was not involved in the transaction.

Miner described the situation as “classic bureaucratic stall-tactics from vacillating decision-makers.”

Douglas County wants the Dreyfus Estate, which was purchased for about $30 million, to open as a commercial business because of the potential property taxes it could bring to the county.

“Our position is that we think it could be used for an ongoing economic enterprise and still have the same property value,” said Jacques Etchegoyhen, chair of the board. “If that doesn’t happen, $30 million in appraised property tax value goes to zero.”

That money, Etchegoyhen said, would not only benefit Douglas County but, ever more, it would affect the Douglas County School District.

Sen. Richard Bryan is scheduled to meet with the county commissioners on Wednesday, and board members said the Dreyfus Estate definitely will be a topic of discussion.

“Land exchange will probably take up a lion’s share of the discussion,” Etchegoyhen said. “(The Dreyfus Estate issue) is sort of a big deal, because there could be many more of these (types of situations) at Lake Tahoe.”

Miner agreed.

“I’m sure that two or three commissioners will raise a lot of questions with regards to the Dreyfus Estate,” he said. “Sen. Bryan has been on top of this issue. He has been following it and is as disturbed by this as we are.”

Bryan could not be reached for comment Monday.

The meeting is scheduled to begin Wednesday at 4 p.m. at the Douglas County Administration Building in Minden.

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