Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Ted Binion

A Robbery in Pahrump

At 2:10 a.m. on Saturday, September 19, 1998, barely two days following Ted Binions death, Nye County Sheriffs Department Sergeant Ed Howard was out on routine patrol when he received a call from Detective Sergeant Steve Huggins who instructed Howard to drive by and check on Ted Binions vault next to Terribles Town Casino.  There had been reports of a disturbance at the site.  When Howard arrived a short time later, followed in another patrol car by Deputy Dean Pennock, he observed two pickup trucks, an excavator, lots of dust and three men, one of whom was operating heavy machinery at the site of Binions vault.  He also observed a tractor with a trailer used for hauling heavy equipment, and a belly-dump truck.  As he turned off Highway 160 and into the area of the vault, he observed that a man operating the excavator was attempting to smooth out the dirt that had been disturbed near the road.  Howard observed two men he would later identify as Rick Tabish and David Mattsen standing by, as the other man, Michael Milot, operated the excavator.  Wondering what these men could possibly be doing at this hour of the morning, Howard parked his patrol car.  Before he could get out, Mattsen approached his vehicle.

Well be done here in a few minutes, Mattsen told Howard as he leaned into the patrol car.  Were just moving some stuff.  Mattsen explained that they were cleaning up some ordnance that had been stored on the property.  Wheres Wade? Mattsen asked, referring to Sheriff Wade Lieske.  He explained to Howard that he had spoken to Lieske earlier and that Lieske was aware of what they were doing on the property.

Binion's vault excavated
Binion's vault excavated (Gary C. King)

Tabish then walked up to Howards car and reiterated that they would be finished with their work shortly.  He explained that they were removing concrete from the site because the property was being sold to the Herbst family.  Tabish also explained to Howard that he had spoken to Sheriff Lieske and that everything is okaythe sheriff knows were doing this.  Howard, recalling how Ted Binion had told Sergeant Steve Huggins to keep an eye on the vault for him, and wondering why Mattsen had told him that they were removing ordnance and why Tabish had told him that they were removing concrete, decided that hed better have a look for himself.  He got out of his patrol car and walked toward the tractor-trailer and the belly-dump truck.

Whats inside the big truck? he asked.

Nothing, Tabish responded.

Howard didnt believe him.  One look at the truck and he could see that it was nearly buckling under the weight of its load.  He and Deputy Pennock climbed up and pulled back the tarp that covered it.  Inside, they saw a huge stash of silver in bars and coins.  One look was all that it took for him to know that it was Ted Binions buried fortune.

Theres a shitload of silver in there! Pinnock declared.  He was staring at boxes of silver bars and bags of silver coins.

Howard looked toward Tabish for an explanation.

Okay, I lied, Tabish said to Howard.

Tabish then told Howard that he was Ted Binions good friend who had built the vault for him.  He claimed that Binion told him that if anything happened to him, Tabish should retrieve the silver, move it to the ranch or take it to Los Angeles, liquidate it and deposit the money he got for it in a trust account for Binions daughter, Bonnie.  Tabish reiterated that he had previously spoken to Sheriff Lieske about what he was doing and insisted that everything was okay.  He said that he had tried calling the ranch to let security know that they were bringing over the silver, but insisted that he could not get through.  He presumed that the phones had been cut off by Binions estate.  Howard wondered why he just didnt drive over there and ask the security guard to let him in.  After all, he reasoned, if this was all on the up-and-up, security would have been notified in advance of what was going to transpire.

Sergeant Steve Huggins arrived at the scene a short time later, and it was decided between Huggins and Howard that Sheriff Lieske should be called and asked to come out to the site.  Maybe, they thought, he could help clear things up.  While waiting for Lieske to arrive, Tabish continued to talk to the two lawmen and revealed that he had been at Ted Binions home on the day he died.  He talked briefly about Binions addiction to heroin, and the plans Binion had made to kick his habit.

Ted Binion told me that he was going to take a whole bottle of Xanax tablets and lay down to go to sleep, Tabish said, and when he woke up his body would be cleansed of all the drugs.

According to the police, Tabish also stated that Binion had authorized a payment of up to one hundred thousand dollars to Sheriff Lieske for allowing him to excavate the vault and retrieve the silver.  When Lieske arrived he was briefed by the two sergeants about what had occurred and the statements Tabish had made.  He approached Rick Tabish.

You told me that you were a business partner of Teds, and that you were coming out here to pick up {your} property, Lieske said.

Tabish quickly denied saying that he was Binions business partner, and instead insisted that he had told Lieske that he had business dealings with Binion.  Tabish further denied that he had said that the property belonged to himself, and said that Lieske had told him that he could come out and take the stuff.

I never said that, Lieske replied.

Rick Tabish
Rick Tabish (AP)

Wade, I told you that we were gonna take care of you as soon as we were done with this, Tabish responded.  Following that statement Tabish, Mattsen, and Milot were promptly arrested and booked on burglary, grand larceny, attempted grand larceny, suspicion of theft, attempted embezzlement, and conspiracy to commit grand larceny.  The three men were each held on one hundred thousand dollars bond.

Following proper police procedure, Sergeant Steve Huggins performed an inventory of the contents of each of the vehicles left at the scene of Ted Binions vault.  One of the vehicles, a 1995 silver and teal Chevrolet with Montana license plates, was registered to Richard Tabish and MRT Transport, Inc.  He would later determine that David Mattsen had been seen driving the truck a few weeks prior to Ted Binions death, which would establish a link between Mattsen and Tabish that dated back farther in time than the investigators had originally believed.  Because of Ted Binions death, the alleged silver theft, and Mattsens criminal record, it would be a point that would require further investigation.

Huggins discovered a briefcase inside one of the other vehicles, and inside the briefcase he found a newsletter for coin collectors and a combination for a safe, presumably Binions safe.  He also found a handwritten note to Tabish that was signed, Love you!  Sandy.  P.S. I love my Lover.

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