CLARK, Wyo- A northwest Wyoming ranch that once belonged to a drug smuggler is under scrutiny again. It was seized by federal officials and turned over to the state of Wyoming. Money is still rumored to be buried on the property somewhere.
Now, a neighboring rancher and the Park County Sheriff's Department want it put back under local control.
Some people call it the Beartooth Ranch. Neighbor Lloyd Thiel calls it the Close Ranch, for the name of the original owners. It is truly an end of road property: more than 600 acres on the Clark’s Fork of the Yellowstone River.
Thiel remembers coming here when he was young. He says the ranch fields were irrigated then, and that water kept the cottonwoods alive. But a Florida cocaine smuggler, Stewart Bost, bought the ranch in 1988 as his retirement hideout.
In the 1990s, authorities discovered his location. The Park County Sheriff's Office was part of the case, said Park County Sheriff Scott Steward. "We continued about a week long investigation, surveillance, and discovered we were pretty comfortable it was him, so we moved in, the U.S. Marshals, ourselves, and were able to take him into custody.”
Bost was sentenced to six years in prison.
Sheriff Steward, who was a deputy then, said he believes that when Bost was released, he returned to dig up a Rubbermaid cooler where he'd stashed money. The sheriff believes Bost took about $100,000 out of it.
Thiel remembered where federal agents found a large hole above the old root cellar. He says he pulled a container out of the hole for them. “He evidently came back, found the money, emptied it into something else, and left everything in that hole,” Thiel said.
Steward told Park County commissioners the property was turned over to the state to be used by the Audubon Society as an educational center. But, there wasn’t enough money to develop the center, so the state took the property back. And it has not been used for almost 20 years.
Theil wants to lease and work the land. He asked the commissioners to write a letter asking to remove federal deed restrictions on it. He thinks the state could sell it or lease it out.
Sheriff Steward told the commissioners the county should get the land,. “We did 90 of the investigation to try to catch him out here at the ranch, to find him. Ultimately involved in the security, the raiding of the house.”
The assistant director of the state land trust, Jason Crowder, said “we would be supportive of” lifting the deed restrictions on the property. But, he said the U.S. Federal Marshal’s Service would have to make the decision.
The County Commissioners took no action on the requests, but said they would consider them.
If you are wondering if there is more money buried on the ranch, the sheriff said there were maps of buried treasure, but he thinks the smuggler dug it all up.