'Mystery company' buys $800M worth of land near Travis AFB, raising concerns about national security

ByStephanie Sierra KGO logo
Sunday, July 23, 2023
'Mystery company' buys $800M of land near Travis AFB
"We're very, very concerned about this." A Solano County congressman is sounding the alarm about a mystery company that has bought $800 million of land near Travis AFB.

FAIRFIELD, Calif. -- The United States Air Force is investigating a company that's purchased $800 million of land near Travis Air Force Base, one of the most critical military bases in the U.S. But after eight months of investigation, government officials have been unable to identify who's behind it nor rule out any threat to national security.

"We're very, very concerned about this," said Rep. John Garamendi, a Democrat who represents portions of the Bay Area. "It's so extensive and so secret and it's impossible to get any information about what's happening here."

Congressman Garamendi raised the alarm to the U.S. Air Force -- prompting a federal investigation.

"I have every reason in the world to believe that this land is adjacent to a critical national security platform Travis Air Force Base. Therefore -- an area where spy operations or any other nefarious activity could take place...that could detrimentally impact the ability of Travis Air Force Base to operate in a moment of national emergency," said Garamendi.

Public records show the company "Flannery Associates LLC" began purchasing land around the military base in 2018. The controversy was first reported by the Wall Street Journal. Investigators say those acquisitions ramped up in 2023.

"Now literally three sides of that base are totally controlled by the Flannery group," Rep. Garamendi said.

Yet no one - including local, state, and federal officials -- can seem to track down who's behind the group.

"Who are these people?" Garamendi said. "Where did they get the money where they could pay five to ten times the normal value that others would pay for this farmland?"

Even after eight months of investigation, Garamendi says federal authorities are still struggling to get those answers.

"To this day we don't know where these people are coming from," Garamendi said.

I-Team reporter from sister station KGO Stephanie Sierra asked Garamendi if there is any reason to believe China is tied to this group.

"I have reason to be concerned," he responded.

Last year, 300 acres of farmland were purchased near Grand Forks Force Base in North Dakota. Garamendi called it a '"spy base."

"That base is where we launch our airplanes to figure out what's going on across the world," he said. "A company in China was acquiring land around that base and wanted to build a 400-foot silo that could look directly into the base... and we were like 'whoa, whoa, whoa, what's going on there?'"

Garamendi says the attorney representing Flannery Associates indicated the firm is made up of a group of families, 97% of whom are allegedly American, looking to diversify their portfolio from equities to real assets - including agricultural land.

But the congressman is skeptical.

"We have heard scheme after scheme that makes no sense at all," Garamendi said. "We're going to build a deep water port. Really? Around Travis Air Force Base? Which is 10 miles from the Bay. No, you're not... We're going to farm... well at that price you're going to lose a lot of money farming. Well, we're going to build a city... No, you're not going to build a city...so none of the reasons why the land is being acquired make any sense at all."

The attorney representing Flannery Associates sent a letter to the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, one of several agencies investigating the matter.

"No foreign person or group holds any significant interest or substantial control over Flannery, either now or at the time of any land purchase made by Flannery," the letter said.

The company added they don't comment on its investments.

"I don't know, it doesn't make any sense... It's the secrecy... Why are you doing this in secret? If you're not a nefarious operation, why are you keeping it secret?" Garamendi said.

According to Garamendi, Flannery Associates has also acquired land around the interstate electrical grid system stemming from the Columbia River into Central California - including land that houses wind turbines that provide significant power into Northern California.

In the meantime, Garamendi says the company continues to negatively impact the farming community in Solano County. He says at least 10 landowners are being sued by Flannery, accused of being engaged in an illegal scheme to prevent the company from buying their land.