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FBI Joins Powell Butte Horse Abuse/Money Laundering Case


NewsChannel 21learned FridaytheFBI is helping Crook County authoritiesin a huge horse neglect and money laundering investigation that spans at least three states so far.

Two more Powell Butte ranch hands were arrested Thursdayfor animal neglect, in the case of 81 malnourished and wounded horses.

On Friday,they, along with the caretakers of the property, all pleaded not guilty to the charges.

“Are you Christopher Kyle Hooks?” asked aCrook County Circuit Court judge. “Yes, I am,” Hooks replied via video link from the county jail.

Hooks, 20, of Powell Butte,isone of the four caretakers of the Powell Butte ranch charged with 14 counts of animal neglect. He and a co-worker, 18-year-old Kyle Mann of Prineville. pleaded not guilty, one day after their arrest.

In the same courtroom just an hour earlier, Robert Albring Jr. and his son, Robert Albring III, arrested after two raids on the ranch in recent weeks,pleaded not guilty as welland agreednot tocome near thehorses.

A court granted the sheriff’s office unfettered access to the 77-acre Highway 126 ranch the Albrings live on, in order to take care of the 67 malnourished horses still living there.

Detectives say they are closing in on the head of the operation, Robert Gruntz, who owns the horses and a company called Arlington Farms or Arlington Investments out of Riverside County, Calif.

Sources say his business partner Steven Newman, acts as a rabbi, counseling troubled marriages. Newman gets to know their finances and eventually offers them an investment in the Arlingtoncompany, saying they breed and race certified thoroughbred horses.

Detectives with the FBI and Crook County say Gruntz pockets the money, doesn’t give a rip about the horses and deposits their hay and vet money into an account that’s said to be almost $1 million fat.

“We’re pretty sure there’s horse owners out there that have no idea what kind of shape or condition these animals are in,” said Crook Co. Commander Russ Wright. “They’re paying for something they’re really not getting.”

Vets have checked, and these are true, tattooed thoroughbred racers, with bloodlines that could go as far back as the famous Secretariat, who won the Triple Crown in 1973.

But starving, with lice, and some with seriously infected wounds, they were shipped up from California to Powell Butte and left to die, say police. And with no money coming from their alleged boss, these ranch hands supposedly couldn’t feed them adequately.

Detectives say they’ll be making personal contact with Gruntz and his associates soon. And they say this money laundering, possible tax evasion scam could reach as far as New York state, where Gruntz allegedly owns more property.

The Powell Butte property is owned byDr. Richie Stevens out of Park City, Utah and leased or rented by Gruntz. Detectives are also looking into Stevens to see what he knows about the case.

Police believe there are hundreds of investors out there who could be victims, we’ll keep you updated.

There is a fund being set up at Wells Fargo Bank so you can make donations to help pay for the horses care.

A 30-ton delivery of hay will be taken to the property this weekend as vets continue the process of checking each one out.

Anyone with information about Gruntz and Arlington Farms is being urged to contact the Crook County Sheriff’s Office at (541) 447-6398.

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