Thomas Barrack — onetime owner of Neverland Ranch, owner of the Happy Canyon Vineyard and downtown tasting room, and longtime confidant of Donald Trump — was released on a bail of $250 million in connection with federal charges that he secretly acted as a lobbyist for a foreign government — the United Arab Emirates (UAE) — did not register as he should, and lied about doing so when asked by federal investigators.
Barrack — a former part-time presence in Santa Barbara and the Santa Ynez Valley — led the $107 million fundraising effort for Trump’s inaugural committee in 2016. Based on the 46-page indictment released last week, Barrack is accused of using his close personal, professional, and political relationship with Trump, his advisors, and the American media at the behest of the UAE government. In this capacity, Barrack — best known for starting Colony Capital — allegedly provided advice on American foreign policy and diplomatic appointments deemed advantageous policy by the UAE.
According to some media reports, Barrack has been charged with provisions of the law typically deployed in matters of espionage rather than mere failure to register as a foreign lobbyist. Barrack was arrested and detained last week as a high flight risk. He was arraigned this Monday in federal court in New York City, where he pleaded not guilty and expressed glowing praise for the treatment he received while in custody.
In addition, federal authorities arrested Matthew Grimes, a former Santa Barbara resident, 27, who worked for Barrack at Colony Capital. Grimes and Barrack now both live in Aspen, Colorado, where they will both be required to wear ankle bracelets while otherwise free on bail.
The third suspect named in the indictment, Rashid Sultan Rashid Al Malik Alshahhi of the UAE, remains at large.
Barrack bought Neverland Ranch from pop icon Michael Jackson when Jackson found himself experiencing legal and financial turmoil and has since sold it to grocery store magnate Ron Burkle — a major donor in Democratic Party circles — for $22 million, about $75 million less than the asking price.