USDA will release Dreyfus report |

USDA will release Dreyfus report

by Andy Bourelle

Area newspapers should have copies of a report detailing the criminal investigation into Zephyr Cove’s Dreyfus estate later this week, said Nancy Bartel, an official for the U.S. Department of Agriculture Office of the Inspector General.

Bartel said Tuesday she has received clearance to release the report. The USDA Office of Inspector General last week denied requests from the The Record-Courier and Tahoe Daily Tribune and the to release the materials. Both papers appealed the decision Friday, and the Reno Gazette-Journal also indicated its intention to try to obtain the report.

Several area officials – including Douglas County commissioners and U.S. Rep. Jim Gibbons, R-Nevada – were upset the information had not been made available to the public.

The federal government in 1997 gave a land-brokerage company private land around Las Vegas in exchange for the 46-acre parcel of land containing the Dreyfus estate. The property was valued at $38 million, and the transaction was described as the most expensive land swap in U.S. Forest Service history. However, the Forest Service reportedly had no interest in the mansion or other improvements on the property and the agency allowed the land brokers to sell them. The Park Cattle Co., which has extensive holdings in Douglas County, made the purchase with the understanding that a special land-use permit would be issued to operate the buildings as a business.

Negotiations reached a standstill last summer when questions arose over an audit by the Forest Service’s Pacific Southwest Region’s land adjustment program.

Auditors claimed the property without improvements – buildings, driveways, and fences – should have had an appraised value of up to $10 million less.

The investigation started last year, and officials indicated its completion last month. The special agent in charge of the Dreyfus investigation at the time said the agency found no grounds for criminal prosecution. However, he declined to discuss details and said the report would have to be obtained through the Freedom of Information Act. Both the Tribune and The Record-Courier, which are owned by Swift Newspapers Inc., tried, but their initial requests were denied.

Bartel said the requests were denied because officials, at the time, thought “deliberations (among the Forest Service) would be adversely affected” by the report’s release.

Officials now believe its release will not affect the deliberations, she said.