CALIFORNIA CITY – A quit claim deed turning the Tierra Del Sol property over to California City has been ruled invalid, leaving the fate of the golf course up in the air. The land itself is actually owned by the Silver Saddle Ranch and Club, with the city allowed to use it for the express purpose of operating a golf course.
The California Department of Business Oversight announced Oct. 1 that a judge granted its request to shut down an alleged investment fraud that collected more than $30 million from illegal land sales and other charges associated with Silver Saddle.
Acting on a civil complaint filed under seal, San Diego Superior Court Judge Joel R. Wohlfeil granted the DBO’s request for a temporary restraining order barring further land sales, a freeze of all related assets and the appointment of a receiver to take possession of Silver Saddle Ranch and two affiliated entities, Silver Saddle Commercial Development and the Galileo Commercial Property Owners Association. A superior court hearing on the TRO confirmed the tentative ruling and converted it to a preliminary injunction.
The complaint names Thomas M. Maney of Lancaster as the central figure in a scheme that violated state securities laws and targeted Filipino, Chinese and Spanish-speaking communities with high-pressure sales tactics and false promises. More than 2,000 investors were persuaded to pay up to $30,000 each for part of an undeveloped, 1,000-acre patch of desert.
Prior to the TRO going into effect, Maney provided a quit claim deed to the city.
“He gave it to us 38 days after he was told not to,” said City Manager Anna Linn. “We could be grandfathered in for two reasons: It was given to us years ago, as long as we maintained it as a golf course. The other reason that it might work in our favor is, (the property) was never listed in the Ponzi scheme.”
Linn added, however that there was strict verbiage that says any and all properties owned by Silver Saddle can be sold to pay back the victims of the fraud.
“So the question is, do we maintain it and (potentially) lose a million dollars,” said Linn. “Because that would that would fix our public safety thing right now.”
The cost of operating the golf course was just over $1 million in fiscal year 2018-2019 and the newly adopted 2019-2020 budget has earmarked $810,719 for Tierra Del Sol.
The golf course was originally built by the city in 1976.
“The problem is, this isn’t a hard decision for us, we just don’t know if we will even be able to make a decision on it,” said Mayor Chuck McGuire. “If they say, if we can only keep her for five years and then they’re going to take it, we’re wasting money on it that can be redirected to other things.”
It’s not known at this time how long it will take to settle the case or resolve the question of ownership.