In the largest-ever transfer of its kind, the U.S. government Monday gave Orange County title to a 213-acre ranch seized almost three years ago in a drug raid in which the county's Sheriff's Department played a key role.
Rancho del Rio, valued at almost $1.5 million, was headquarters for what authorities said was a multimillion-dollar, international drug ring. It is the largest piece of property yet transferred to local officials under the Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984, a federal law that allows local police agencies instrumental in cracking a case to use property and cash seized from suspected drug traffickers to fund their drug units, U.S. Atty. Robert C. Bonner said.
U.S. Sen. Pete Wilson (R-Calif.), who joined Bonner in presenting the property deed to Orange County Supervisor Thomas F. Riley, called the transfer "poetic justice."
Daniel J. Fowlie, 54, who owned the ranch at the time of the raid, was a fugitive until his recent arrest in La Paz, Mexico, where he is being held pending an extradition request by federal authorities to face drug trafficking charges in the United States, Bonner said.
Orange County officials are studying a request to turn the ranch into a Sheriff's Department training center and setting for law enforcement conferences.