Former Ted Binion Employee Faces Criminal Charges for Hunting Casino Tycoon’s Fabled Buried Treasure

Posted on: June 25, 2019, 05:32h. 

Last updated on: June 25, 2019, 05:36h.

A 56-year old man from Pahrump, Nye County, Nevada was arraigned Monday on burglary and property-destruction charges, committed, apparently, in search of casino tycoon Ted Binion’s buried treasure.

Ted Binion
Richard Cleaves (left) was searching for the treasure purportedly hidden by Ted Binion (right), who is rumored to have buried some of his riches at the Pahrump ranch where Cleaves once worked as a manager. (Image: Nye County Sheriffs Office/AP News)

Richard Cleaves was a former manager at the Binion ranch over 20 years ago. His boss’ death in 1998 in suspicious circumstances kickstarted the biggest trial in the history of Las Vegas, which saw two people convicted, and later acquitted, of his murder.

It has long been rumored that Binion buried a chunk of his personal wealth on his 138-acre estate — possibly in the form of silver bullion — but his former employee, Cleaves, appears to be completely sold on the idea.

Having previously been arrested in 2017 for breaking into the ranch, Cleaves was spotted by security cameras on March 30 this year digging up parts of the property, along with two unknown accomplices. All three men were equipped with shovels and were found to have dug holes several feet deep.

The Nye County Sheriff’s Department has neglected to say whether Cleaves’ latest treasure hunt struck silver.

Who Was Ted Binion?

Ted Binion was the youngest son of Benny Binion, the colourful Texas gangster and gambling impresario who founded Binion’s Horseshoe in Fremont Street, Las Vegas, and who also established the World Series of Poker.

Binion Sr. was a Las Vegas pioneer, the first casino operator to offer comped drinks to low-rollers and high-rollers alike, while also offering the highest betting limits in town.

Good food, good whiskey cheap, and a good gamble,” was Benny Binnion’s mantra.

But he was forced to sell a majority share in the Horseshoe in 1953 after a conviction for tax evasion. The Binion family regained full control of the casino in 1964 but Benny Binion, as a convicted felon in Nevada, was no longer permitted to hold a gambling license.

He turned the management of the casino over to his sons, Jack and Ted, who were then 27 and 21, respectively.

Did Binion Leave Buried Treasure?

By the 1980s, Ted was continually in trouble with Nevada regulators because he had developed a drug problem and was fraternizing with mobsters. In 1998, the year of his death, his license was revoked, and he was banned from his own casino.

Ted retreated to the ranch, some 78 miles from downtown Las Vegas, where he hoarded the valuable assets, previously kept in the Horseshoe safe, in a purpose-built vault.

When he wound up dead later that year, it was initially a suspected case of suicide or an accidental drug overdose. But in June 1999, Binion’s girlfriend, Sandy Murphy, a stripper, and her lover, Rick Tabish, were charged with his murder.

Prosecutors believed the pair had forced Binion to overdose on heroin and Xanax before suffocating him in a plot to steal the money from the vault.

Murder Conviction Quashed

Police found Tabish attempting to break into the vault two days before Binion’s funeral. Tabish attempted to bribe the officers who arrested him.

At a retrial, Murphy and Tabish were acquitted of murder and found guilty instead of the lesser charges of conspiracy burglary and grand larceny. They have since been released.

It’s believed Binion squirreled away six tons of silver bullion, 100,000 rare coins, and wads of dollar bills totalling between $7 million and $14 million, not just in the vault but also in the front and back yards of the ranch, much of which remains unaccounted for.

Cleaves, who appears to be on a mission to find it, remains free without bail, pending another court date August 29.