Friday, December 13, 2013


Dear Senator Udall:
My name is Matt Middleton. I live in Magdalena, NM and
have been working as a part-time activist on the San Augustin Plains
aquifer water grab for a little less than a year. I'm sure you're
aware of the issue, but to set the tone here let me
quote a paragraph or two from an article that came out
in the Green Fire Times in January of 2011.
"Scattered around the Plains of Saint Augustine are cattle ranches run by a curious breed of true individuals who prefer to govern their lives as they see fit through hard work and John Wayne-ian true grit. They prefer to be left alone in this enormous span of grassland that elicits fits of agoraphobia in visiting urbanites who happen to be driving from Magdalena to Datil. This is indeed a habitat perfectly suited to itself, a biotic community contained within a geophysical cradle sculpted by volcanic activity with an ancient tectonic nudge that resulted in an exquisitely defined watershed that apparently drains to either side of the Continental Divide. Both the Río Grande to the east and the Gila River to the west are fed by waters from the San Augustin aquifer.
Today, a family of speculators is seeking legal right to drill thirty-seven wells deep into the San Augustin aquifer and pump 54,000 acre feet of water per year for 300 years, or until the aquifer runs dry, for undetermined purposes other than to sell this water to the highest bidder. Or, put another way, a family of modern-day carpetbaggers wants to pump the lifeblood of a living bioregion, create a water hemorrhage with no thought of tourniquet, despoil a vibrant habitat, rape the Earth—for money, lots of money to satisfy the insidious greed that has come to dominate so much of the darkening consciousness of Western culture. The privatization of common waters for profit is absolutely unethical."
For the benefit of yourself and whoever else
may read this, let me here include the link to
the full article:
The author is, of course, someone well known to you -
longtime Udall family friend Jack Loeffler.
Heck, you've probably discussed the issue with him.
  Senator, Jack's observations and analysis here
 are right on target.
This is an ethical issue.
Currently, everyone is waiting for the State Appeals Court
to announce their decision on the latest round in this mess.
However, while we wait, I think it's important that
people prepare for further battles in the "water war."
The opposition has been stubborn, and of course
they have all the time and money in the world.
Well, money at least.
Senator, while this is a state issue, there are certain
realities here that can probably only be addressed
on a federal level.
Let me explain.
The Augustin Plains Ranch LLC is headed by Bruno Modena
from Milan, Italy.   He and his son Vittorio and other
unnamed foreigners were behind an "eco-resort" and
subdivision nightmare proposed a few years back
on the Maine coast, adjacent to Acadia National Park. 
 Needless to say the whole scheme horrified the locals
and conservationists in the region,
and some well-to-do folks from the area (and state),
along with a timber company, bought the Modenas out. 
The amount paid, according to someone in the loop,
was termed "exorbitant."  It seems like a
 whole new form of extortion.
 The only other thing we've been able to find was that
the family has ownership in some small, four-star,
exclusive hotels, that cater primarily to
 extended family, business associates, etc.
 in a string of hostels in Italy.
The business is under the umbrella of a holding
company registered in England.  Of course, under current
 British law, the cloak of secrecy is intact.
Bruno Modena is Director.  Someone
else is Secretary.  End of story.
However, that may soon change.  The money-laundering
problems in the U.K. are widespread and entrenched,
 undermining law enforcement efforts, and the
 Prime Minister has promised changes -
transparency in ownership and sources of capital.
Time will tell.
An article I found on the web from an Italian newspaper
about the opening of a new hotel venture the
Modenas apparently own, or control in some form,
shed little light on the details, describing the Modena Family
 as one that is known for "confidentiality,"
 and that their investors are people who
 "do not like being exposed."
I'm including a link to this at the bottom.
Senator, as a former State Attorney General,
 I'm certain you're well aware of how this all looks.
People who don't like their names or, more importantly,
the sources of their money, known - by anyone -
generally have something to hide, am I not right?
I'm sure you're way ahead of me here.
The LLC is talking about a $500,000,000 investment
 in infrastructure and whatever else they need
 on the San Augustin project.
Where's all this cash coming from?
 Are these people legit, or are they foreign "operators?" 
 Is there foreign mob money here - money from sex slavery
 and child prostitution, drug money, gun-running money?
Who knows?  No one.
But isn't a deal like this an ideal opportunity to potentially
launder one hell of a lot of cash - huge contracts in
a state that already has problems in keeping its own books,
much less overseeing the legitimacy of money flowing in
and out of a half-billion dollar project.  No way.
No one would ever even come close to knowing
what the hell these people might pull off.
It's overwhelming.  It could be.
And it's scary.
They say nothing, offer nothing.
There's absolutely NO transparency.
NEVER has there been any info about their
corporate background, their financial base,
their past ventures, their successes,
 their corporate story. 
 Nada.  Zilch.  No PR.  No nuthin'.
Except for one guy.
Their front man.
And there is plenty known about the man they hired
to be their "Project Manager" on the deal.
And Senator, when these characters hired
Michel Jichlinski, the former President and CEO of
the Louis Berger Group, a federal contractor,
they may as well have hired the devil.
He was perfect.
The Louis Berger Group, while he was at the helm,
stole millions of U.S. taxdollars involving contracts
in war zones in Iraq and Afghanistan.  A whistleblower
came forth with five years of evidence of overbilling
and "creative" accounting procedures.
  The company got hit with the largest war-time fine ever
for a contractor.  A few people went to prison,
 but not Jichlinski, even though he was
the chief of an outfit that the whistleblower
described as "a culture of fraud."
Connected, obviously.
Senator, some months back I got two visits from
law enforcement officials questioning me about
the aquifer issue, and my role.  There's a link to that post
along with the others.
  I believe it's time that we ask that
 the federal government use its resources and
find out who the Modenas and
 their "investors" really are. 
We're talking about total strangers,
who could have dark and dangerous connections,
potentially getting their hands on 52,000 acre ft.
of water, drinking water, per annum. 
 It's imperative that the citizens of the State
  know exactly who these foreigners are
 before any papers are signed,
before any wells are drilled.
Actually, foreign ownership of our water is nuts,
but that's something that will need to be addressed
in the future, when we all have time (?).
We'd also like to know that Jichlinski hasn't been
running around Santa Fe with a briefcase full
of cash to grease the wheels.  At the Berger Group
bribery was apparently a way of life.
This guy needs to be watched.
He has to be watched.
Of course, if a person looks over the legal and
hydrologic evidence, there is absolutely no way
these guys should ever have gotten this far.
When Dr. Fred Phillips of NMIMT explained
the process of capturing ALL the rainfall falling
on their ranch (cut down every living thing,
 sterilize the soil, and then SEAL it with concrete or plastic)
 then we realized how over the edge these people
 really are.  A link to that post is also included.
Senator, I see that your staff is having
"Udall Serving You" office hours at the Socorro
Library on Thursday.  I'll be delivering a hard copy
of this letter to them at that time,
but will be e-mailing your staff the link to
the letter as soon as it's complete, with links.
  One way or another, I'm confident it should
 reach your eyes.  I pray it does.
Thank you for your time, and good luck with
trying to herd all those Capital cats.
When you see Jack, please say hi.
Now there's an amazing cat.
Matt Middleton
Here's the link to the Italian newspaper article
about the Modenas' hotel business in Italy
(needs translation - I used Google, but certainly
a staffer that knows Italian would be better):
Here's just one of the many articles from the
McClatchy Washingto Bureau about the
Louis Berger Group fraud case:
USA Today was one of many news organizations
 covering the Maine "eco-resort" the Modenas
 had planned:
Here's an intriguing part of an interview we conducted
with Dr. Fred Phillips, Director of the Hydrology Program
 at New Mexico Institure of Mining & Technology:
Here's the post (really a letter to the editor)
after I found out I was the subject of a
criminal investigation:
To send a message to Senator Udall here's
his contact page: