PALM BEACH — Until recently, Richard “Duke” Buchan was just another rich friend of Donald Trump‘s with a polo team and a seven-acre horse ranch in Wellington.
But as soon as Buchan, who runs his Hunter Global Investors hedge fund from his downtown West Palm Beach office, emerged as a leading contender for the gig as Trump’s ambassador to Spain, profiles about the 53-year-old started popping up in national media.
Here’s something about Buchan that the corporate journos missed: The Wellington polo ranch owned by the man who would represent anti-immigration Trump in key allied country allegedly uses illegal immigrants to tend to its horses.
How do we know?
We visited with Buchan’s stable boys at his Longfield Farm ranch on Welly’s Pelham Circle, a $2.5 million, 7-acre property where he keeps about 40 polo horses and half a dozen employees who groom them.
There a Mexican carting horse manure, who said he’d talk to Gossip Extra if we didn’t identify him, readily admitted to being in the United State illegally.
“I work on a farm in New York State in the summer,” said the stable hand, “and I come down here in the winter when it get too cold up north.”
The migrant said he doesn’t know Buchan, has never seen him at the barn and was surprised to hear his employer is a friend of Mexico-basher Trump’s.
“He must be an important hombre,” the worker said in Spanish about Buchan.
In his mid-20s, the groom said he crossed illegally into Texas because he couldn’t find a job south of the border, and hinted others around him may have followed a similar path.
“We don’t make that much money,” he said. He declined to say exactly how much but said it’s around $8 an hour, 75 cents over the federal minimum hourly wage and 10 cents below Florida’s.
“The work is hard. But it’s more than I would make at home, if I had a job.”
We left messages on Buchan’s cellphone, at his $7 million beachfront mansion in Palm Beach and his West Palm Beach office, but he didn’t respond to requests for comment.
Instead, Buchan had Charles Harder, his Beverly Hills-based lawyer, fire off a threatening letter saying that the allegation of Buchan’s use of illegal labor was “100% false.”
“Mr. Buchan and his entities do not employ any undocumented or illegal workers,” Harder wrote.
Later in the day, Buchan rep Kevin Madden issued this statement: “Mr. Buchan’s farm does not employ any undocumented or illegal workers. Any claim that Mr. Buchan or the farm employs workers illegally is 100 percent inaccurate.”
The influx of illegals the equestrian communities in Wellington and elsewhere during show-jumping and polo events is nothing new, and barely a secret.
As a matter of fact, immigration authorities have raided numerous equestrian events throughout the country, and possibly the tiny polo club in Upstate New York when Buchan served as chairman of the board. The club is known to use migrant workers and even provides on-premise worker housing.
Last week, a former employee of the Mashomack Polo Club said she believes Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents once dropped in to check on the status of foreign workers.
“I was told about an immigration raid on the club,” said Rebecca Guttierez, a former general manager of the Mashomack Polo Club. “It was before my time (she started in 2010), but I was told about it so that we’d be careful who we hired.”
Today, after we spoke with Buchan’s rep, Guttierez emailed Gossip Extra this statement: “Per our recent conversation, I want to be crystal clear on one topic. I am not aware of Mashomack Polo Club LLC or Duke Buchan EVER having ANY problems with issues regarding undocumented or illegal workers. Any statements from me to the contrary would be 100% UNTRUE.”
Buchan, meanwhile, wouldn’t be the first Trump nominee dogged by questions about illegal immigrant workers. Earlier this month, Labor Secretary nominee Andrew Pudzer, a fast-food mogul, admitted to hiring an illegal worker as a maid, then withdrew from consideration when Republican lawmakers vowed to vote against his nomination.
Trump is expected to nominate a slew of ambassadors later this week, and Buchan is believed to be in the slate along with fellow Palm Beach society stalwarts Patrick Park, Robin Bernstein and Brian Burns, as well as Miami Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria, all wealthy political donors.
One thing that’s surprising about Buchan is that, unlike the others, he was not a Trump political convert early in the presidential campaign, possibly because one of Buchan’s companies sued Trump in 2009 over a business deal gone sour.
At first, Buchan threw his cash behind former Florida Governor Jeb Bush‘s ill-fated campaign, with $750,000 in donations to a Bush PAC. Then, when Bush went down, Buchan poured in another $250,000 into PACs supporting the misguided White House campaign of U. S. Senator Marco Rubio‘s.
At least, Buchan’s contributions to Rubio won’t go to waste..
If the senate confirms Buchan, we’re fairly sure he’ll get Rubio’s vote.