The Mystery of Pai

Page 8 of 9

"They tried to portray me as this violent, aggressive person," he says. "That's nothing but a lie. But they did influence the prosecutor. I think they're trying to intimidate people any way they can."

Montoya says he's had to reduce his herd by two-thirds over the years because of his lack of access to mountain pastures. He's seen neighbors in the same downward spiral who ended up selling their land to Pai. Others have signed waivers, relinquishing their claims as herederos to historic use rights, in exchange for being allowed to obtain grazing leases on the ranch.

Montoya refuses to sign. He says he'll find out this spring if he's going to have renewed struggles over grazing in the subdivision. "I haven't had any further discussion with them, other than dirty looks and hard feelings," he says.

Barron acknowledges that it's ranch policy to require neighbors to sign away their land-grant claims in order to obtain grazing leases. "We don't do business with people who are suing us," he says.

Two years ago, Pai requested a meeting with Colorado Attorney General Ken Salazar to discuss the future of the ranch. Pai assured Salazar that his primary interest was in preserving the ranch and using it for his family. He wanted to know if the attorney general "had some ideas for him on how he might be able to bring about a peaceful co-existence with the community," Salazar recalls.

"I told him if there was a way he could provide access to the community, the opportunity for the community to exercise the historic use rights, that would be the right direction," he says. "He said at the time that he would explore those ideas."

Pai's ranch manager says his boss has a "soft spot" for young people and seniors and wants to help the community with donations to worthwhile programs. But any discussion of some kind of easement for herederos isn't on the table -- if it ever was.

"It's private property," Barron declares. "Mr. Pai paid for it. Mr. Taylor paid for it. We expect a decision from the Colorado Supreme Court [on the appeal] any day now. If they lose, we expect them to appeal it further...but there's no way to settle it. There's no one with the authority to settle it, so we expect it to go on."

On February 25, 2000, Lou Pai sold 10,000 shares of Enron stock at $65.04 a share, yielding proceeds of $650,400.

On March 7, 2000, Lou Pai sold 100,000 shares of Enron stock at $72.02 a share, for a total of $7,202,000.

On March 22, 2000, Lou Pai sold 1,760,500 shares of Enron stock at $74.57 a share. Total return: $131,280,480.

Over the next two months, Lou Pai sold nearly two million additional shares of stock, worth more than $130 million.

During a single week in May 2001, shortly before he retired from his position at Enron, Pai cashed in additional shares worth more than $70 million.

Virtually all of the transactions involved restricted shares -- that is, shares of stock that had been issued to Pai as part of a compensation package or offered to him at a fraction of their selling price under the company's stock-option deals for top insiders.

In the midst of these bouts of high finance, a man who worked for one of Pai's subcontractors on the ranch asked his boss for a raise. The employee was being asked to spend long hours on the road, driving between Pai's Colorado property and a ranch the executive owned in New Mexico, and he figured it was only fair that his wages be increased from eight to ten dollars an hour, to help cover gas and mileage.

After much dickering, the worker got his raise. But he was told not to let other employees know of his two-buck-an-hour windfall so the news wouldn't breed discontent.

"We were told that Lou Pai was losing money in the stock market," the man says, "and that's why we weren't getting any raises."

After the rally at the gates of the ranch, the protesters head back to a dance hall at San Luis for more speeches. Under dim lights, the crowd milling and thinning, environmental activists and Chicano-rights leaders from around the state offer a series of earnest exhortations not to give up the struggle. Many of the speakers, like the plaintiffs in the 21-year-old land-grant lawsuit, sport gray hair and the complaints of middle age.

To date, no Enron shareholders have filed any formal claims against Pai's Colorado ranch. But the attorney for the herederos fully expects that to happen. "Our claims predate any claims other individuals might have, whether from bankruptcy courts, shareholders or whatever," says Jeff Goldstein. "But this property is going to be involved in many lawsuits if, in fact, Mr. Pai is the owner. That's not a pleasant prospect. Whatever happens, we'll have to deal with it."

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Alan Prendergast has been writing for Westword for over thirty years. He teaches journalism at Colorado College; his stories about the justice system, historic crimes, high-security prisons and death by misadventure have won numerous awards and appeared in a wide range of magazines and anthologies.
Contact: Alan Prendergast