CALIFORNIA CITY — Chants of “don’t sell the ranch” or “DBO didn’t listen” sounded out as around 40 people protested outside Silver Saddle Ranch and Resort on Aristotle Drive over the weekend.
Most people signs protesting the pending sale of the ranch, more than a year after a San Diego Superior Court judge assigned a receiver for it. Most were investors who had purchased property or “fractionalized interests” on the 1,024-acre Galileo Project between 2011 and 2019.
Signs ranged from the sale to insisting that the California Department of Business Oversight and the receiver, Thomas McNamara, had not listened to investors prior intending to sell the ranch.
The sale of the ranch could potentially be approved by the court on Nov. 6 for $2.1 million, something the investors wanted to be stopped because of the amount they paid. The additional Galileo Project land will be scheduled for sale approval at a later date for $900,000.
According to Maria Pereira, the spokeswoman for the weekend demonstration, Thomas Maney, the chief person identified in the alleged scheme, sold the land incorrectly.
“The sale was done as a real estate transaction, as opposed to doing it under the laws of the Securities and Exchange Commission since the land was sold to us as a fractionalized interest,” according to a statement from Pereira provided to the Mojave Desert News. “When Mr. Maney tried to rectify the problem last year, he was denied from doing so by the DBO.”
The state filed an injunction and lawsuit against several people accused of $30 million in fraud and illegal land sales, including Maney and Silver Saddle Ranch & Club, Inc., among several others. The investment claims to be at least $54 million.
More than 4,000 people who invested and were targeted came from Filipino, Chinese and Spanish-speaking communities throughout California, according to an Oct. 1, 2019, DBO press release. The average investment was at least $30,000, on top of memberships to the ranch.
Money from the sale would reimburse the receiver’s costs related to Silver Saddle Ranch and start reparations for investors; proceeds from the Galileo Project sale would provide further reimbursement to investors.
Pereira said Judge Joel Wohlfeil, who has overseen the case, ignored a proposed settlement from Maney and ignored the investors looking opposed to selling the ranch.
“The settlement was to have an investor purchase the Ranch and Galileo land,” Pereira stated. “We have asked the Court through an Intervenor Motion to allow us to be part of the lawsuit so that we could be recognized, all to no avail.”
Investors paid $600,000 into a fund to help maintain the ranch but McNamara’s company took possession of it; Pereira claims there is only $200,00 left in the account.
“We strongly believe that there is collusion going on between the Receiver and the realtors as the Receiver listed the Ranch and Galileo land for sale to the public,” Pereira stated.
The receiver selected Kidder Mathews to market the properties and went on sale in May for $1.89 million. A number of offers came in, but according to the receiver’s updates, some concerts hovered over the offer.
Eventually, the receiver settled on an offer from Kevin Feterik for $1.77 million, with a separate $775,500 offer for the Galileo Project land. The receiver planned to fast track the sale approval, citing growing costs in maintaining the property, including a massive water bill when it first took over in October 2019.
A complaint from a California City businessman Rick Jones over the marketing of the property stalled the pending sale and the receiver filed to cancel the escrow; while Feterik initially objected, he withdrew his complaint. The ranch and the Project land were re-listed for $1.85 million.
The receiver eventually accepted the $2.1 million offer from Aaron Mamann, along with the $900,000 offer for the Project land.
One other bid was made for $1.8 million in a proposed joint venture between Jones and Galileo Project investors, along with a $800,000 offer for the Project land.
According to a motion filed by the receiver, the offer was rejected for a number of reasons, including failure to respond on time and additional DBO approval.
“This offer would have benefited not only JV partnership but also the Galileo owners/investors,” Pereira stated. “The Receiver’s rejection of the offer made by JV partnership clearly indicates that there is something that needs to be investigated here.”
The receiver, in an Oct. 14 update, stated it was aware of the investors’ objections to the ranch sale but had no investment in the ranch itself.
“As such, while we have carefully considered the concerns raised by these investors, they do not have legal standing to object to the sale,” the receiver stated in its update.
While the ranch was used as the centerpiece to sell land investment by hosting seminars with free stays at the resort, it wasn’t part of the Galileo Project itself.
She added there was no reason for the receiver to reject the offer and would have made his job easier, while benefiting the investors.
“The offer by JV Partnership and the Galileo owners/investors would have allowed us access to the Ranch and the Galileo Land where we could spend time with our family, and children, and also provide us with the opportunity to recoup our investments without putting any additional monies,” Pereira stated.
The court date to approve the ranch’s sale is set for Nov. 6 in San Diego.