Private Paramilitary Training Complex Slated for Border Hits a Hitch
However, Opponents of Planned Facility Remain Wary of Shell Game Shenanigans
A paramilitary service company’s plan to develop a nearly 1,000-acre military and law-enforcement training facility near the California border with Mexico is now in the process of being scuttled by a foreclosure action on the property.
At least $1 million is still owed on the property by the company, called Wind Zero, according to the current notice of default obtained by Narco News — and some sources familiar with the foreclosure process indicate the amount owed, including interest and penalties, exceeds $1.5 million.
“The note [loan] on the property is in default, and we are going through the foreclosure process,” confirms Stewart Cowan, a San Diego attorney representing the note holder, Donna Perrine, who sold the 944-acre site to Wind Zero in 2007.
A check of public records for the Wind Zero property shows that the owner also is in arrears on 2010 taxes owed to Imperial County, Calif., to the tune of nearly $2,800. David Black, a senior planner with Imperial County, says he is not aware of either the foreclosure or the taxes owed with respect to the Wind Zero project.
“I was the project planner for that project, but I have not kept up on the foreclosure or tax matters,” Black says. “If they come in to apply for building permits, then it might become an issue. But nothing has been done on the (Wind Zero) project since they received approval in December of last year.”
The proposed Wind Zero project, which would be developed in three phases at a cost of up to $100 million (some $15 million for Phase 1), has been billed by Wind Zero as a privately operated, state-of-the-art training center that would employ up to 200 people and serve as economic boon to the small California border towns of Nomirage and Ocotillo, located in Imperial County some 80 miles east of San Diego and less than a dozen miles from the Mexican border.
The paramilitary training center is slated to include numerous shooting ranges allowing for some 57,000 rounds of ammunition to be fired off daily; a mock-up of an urban neighborhood for practices assaults; a 6-mile dual-use race track for teaching defensive and offensive driving (and for private-pay recreational use); an airstrip and multiple heliports; and enough housing and RV camper space (along with a 100-room hotel) to accommodate a small battalion of warriors.
Despite the money problems apparently afflicting the Wind Zero project, opponents of the development indicate that there is still some concern that a paramilitary front company, such as an affiliate of Xe (formerly Blackwater), could still purchase the property out of foreclosure and proceed with the project.
In fact, the planned Wind Zero training center is not unlike a similar project proposed several years ago in southern California by Xe, then called Blackwater (which, like Wind Zero, was founded by former Navy SEALs). Blackwater pulled the plug on that controversial project in early 2008 due to community opposition.
“There have been rumors floating around that Wind Zero [led by former Navy SEAL Brandon Webb] has some type of affiliation with Xe, and that it is possible Wind Zero could sell it’s interest in the project,” says Larry Silver of the California Environmental Law Project. Silver is representing the Sierra Club and the Desert Protective Council in a lawsuit against Wind Zero and Imperial County, Calif. — which has sanctioned the development of Wind Zero’s paramilitary training center.
Attorney Cowan concedes that there is nothing to prevent a company like Xe, or an affiliate of Wind Zero, from buying the note due on the property where the Wind Zero training center is slated to be constructed.
“They could show up at the courthouse in Imperial County and buy the note at the foreclosure auction,” he says.
Narco News attempted to contact Wind Zero top gun Webb, but phone calls were not returned. According to prior media reports, Webb insists Wind Zero is not affiliated with Xe, but rather he considers the East Coast company to be a competitor.
Webb addressed the issue in an interview with the San Diego Reader in January of this year.
From the Reader story:
Anger over Wind Zero’s proposal intensified in June 2007 when Brian Bonfiglio, Blackwater’s vice president, showed up at a presentation that Wind Zero chief executive Webb was giving at a community meeting.
“There’s been a lot of negativity about this Blackwater [Xe] issue,” Webb says during a January 17 phone interview. “There’s this big conspiracy that we’re a shadow company for Blackwater, but it’s ridiculous. [Bonfiglio] showed up at the meeting, and I didn’t even know until afterwards. If we were associated, then the worst thing I could do would be to bring a member of Blackwater to a community meeting.”
Broker in the Weeds
However, sources told Narco News that in late September, about a month after the notice of default on the Wind Zero site was recorded, a broker from Texas by the name of David Keener contacted Cowan to make an offer on the property.
Cowan confirms that he was contacted by Keener, whom, he says, “made an offer on the property that was considerably less than the value of the note.”
“Donna [Perrine, the holder of the note] rejected the offer, and there was no deal made with Keener,” Cowan adds.
In a check of Texas corporation records, Narco News discovered that Keener is listed as the registered agent for MDJ Texas Reality Holdings LLC. Those same records show that MDJ is affiliated with a company called Holland Park Capital of Austin, Texas, whose registered agent is an individual named Mark Jansen.
A Form D Notice of Exempt Offering of Securities filing that Wind Zero lodged with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in July 2009 lists Jansen as an executive officer and director of Wind Zero.
Narco News was unable to reach Jansen for comment. However, Keener, when contacted in Texas, did confirm that he knows Jansen and had a business relationship with him. However, Keener says he is now the sole owner of MDJ and it is no longer affiliated with Holland Park Capital.
Keener also says he was not representing either Jansen or Arlington, Va.-based Xe in the bid to acquire the Wind Zero property in Southern California.
Xe is owned by USTC Holding LLC, which counts as members of its board of directors former Bush Administration U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, former Clinton Administration General Counsel Jack Quinn, and retired U.S. Navy Admiral Bobby R. Inman. Listed as a director of Wind Zero is former Navy Captain and RAND Senior Management Systems Analyst John Birkler , according to Wind Zero's 2009 Form D filing with the SEC.
RAND bills itself as a nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank, but, in reality, it has a long history of close ties to the military and private-sector warfare complex. RAND media spokesman Warren Robak told Narco News previously that “John Birkler and his involvement with Wind Zero is a private matter — it has nothing to do with RAND.”
Keener would say only that he was representing in his bid for the Wind Zero property “an investor from the East Coast who was familiar with the [Wind Zero] project.”
The environmental groups represented by Silver and the Quechan Indian Tribe (the land slated for the Wind Zero project is the site of a tribal burial ground) filed their separate lawsuits earlier this year in California Superior Court seeking a judicial order that will undue Imperial County’s approval for the planned Wind Zero project.
Silver says the Sierra Club and Desert Protective Council have no plans to drop their lawsuit, even if the Wind Zero property is sold — given the concern that a third party affiliated with either Wind Zero or Xe may still seek to purchase the property out of foreclosure (at a significantly reduced price) and move forward with the project under the existing development agreement with Imperial County.
“There is a hearing in the case set for Nov. 10, and we are prepared to ask the court to set aside the approval for the project,” Silver says. “If the judge says no, then we plan to appeal.”
Stay tuned …..
Past coverage of the planned Wind Zero project: