Residents of Rio Vista, an agricultural town of 10,000 near the edge of Solano County, have been captivated for most of the last six years by one question: Who was buying up all the farmland?

It appeared to be a little-known company called Flannery Associates, which by last year had become the largest landowner in the county. Residents speculated on its purpose: Some thought it could be a cover for foreign spies; others believed it was a shell company acquiring property for a new Disneyland.

But even after investigations by the county and federal agencies, nobody could learn anything about the company’s owners or true intentions.

The veil lifted in August, when my colleague Erin Griffith and I revealed that the purchases were being directed by a former Goldman Sachs trader named Jan Sramek, who wanted to build a city of up to 400,000 people on what is now rolling yellow farmland, where families have raised sheep and cattle for generations.

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