Las Vegas Sun

August 22, 2014

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Columnist Jeff German: Binion treasure hunt may pay off

He has been burned before, but District Attorney David Roger isn't missing a chance to plan another Ted Binion treasure hunt.

A tip from a jailed informant in Vancouver Island, British Columbia, of all places, has revived Roger's desire for adventure.

With Binion's convicted killers in prison, most of the silver and gold taken from his home still missing and no letup in the rumors about his penchant for burying valuables, the search for Binion's bounty has become an intriguing aspect of his well-publicized murder case.

If prosecutors can find some of the missing loot, they might be able to tie others to the murder conspiracy besides Rick Tabish and Sandy Murphy, the two people convicted of killing Binion on Sept. 17, 1998. And that could provide answers to some of the biggest questions posed at the trial three years ago, such as how the former casino executive really died and how his home was plundered.

Roger has long suspected that Tabish and Murphy had help in bringing about Binion's demise, but he has never had any solid evidence to back up his suspicions.

In his persistence to leave no stone unturned in this case, Roger once more is leaving himself open to embarrassment.

Remember the last time Roger led a Binion treasure hunt after the 2000 trial?

Binion's former ranch manager, David Mattsen, in what turned out to be a media spectacle, persuaded investigators to dig "halfway to China" on the gambling figure's 125-acre Pahrump ranch -- before everyone left with nothing but red faces. Mattsen turned out to be something less than credible.

But this time, though there is a potential for the same results, Roger has reason to be more optimistic.

Here's why.

The informant who wants to take investigators on the next treasure hunt has told Vancouver authorities that he won't do it unless he gets a share of what he says is $3.5 million in silver dollars.

That's a sign of someone who's pretty confident about his information.

Binion's estate -- which has investigated countless leads of buried treasure at the Pahrump ranch and Binion's Las Vegas home without success -- already has signed off on a reward, hoping that maybe this lead is the real thing.

Investigators also know that Tabish has a couple of good friends who live in the Vancouver area.

And cell phone records uncovered by private detective Tom Dillard, who probed Binion's killing for Binion's estate, show that Tabish made several calls to the Vancouver area around the time of Binion's death. Dillard suspects the calls were made to a precious metals firm, which is another nice coincidence.

It's all enough for Roger to keep the legend of Binion's buried treasure alive.

Sure, the new treasure hunt could turn out to be another wild goose chase.

Then again, it might not. Who knows? It might unravel the mystery of Ted Binion's death.

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