New evidence may surface soon in Binion case
COMMENTARY: Steve Miller
Las Vegas Tribune
May 1, 2002
Bob Stupak was former Horseshoe owners Jack and Ted Binionís best friend. Stupak was a regular in the Horseshoe poker room during the Binion's proprietorship, but he and a number of other high rollers stopped gambling at the casino following the hostile takeover by Jack and Ted's sister Becky, her son Benny, and husband Nick Behnen.
Lately, without Jack and Ted's high rollers, the Behnens have suffered financially, though Becky has denied ever being estranged from her brothers or of having financial problems.
Many suspicious incidents occurred after Ted's death.
In November 1998, Bob Stupak tried to cash $250,000 worth of $5,000 chips and retrieve two safe deposit boxes full of cash he had on deposit in the Horseshoe casino cage.
Becky and Nick unexplainably refused to cash Stupak's chips or return his cash. When Stupak protested, Benny Behnen physically ejected him from the casino. Stupak filed assault and battery charges against the 23-year-old for allegedly taking a swing at him during the episode.
The week of the incident, the National Gambling Impact Study Commission was in town and the eyes of the nation were on the hearings at the MGM. Also in town was nationally known gambling critic Reverend Tom Grey, Executive Director of the National Coalition Against Gambling Expansion. Rev. Grey was my houseguest.
In a stroke of genius, Stupak donated one of his then-uncashable $5,000 chips to Grey's Methodist church in Illinois. The following day the famed Reverend and I twice attempted to cash the chip but on each occasion we were rudely ordered to leave the casino. Reverend Grey left town and entrusted his chip to me. Headlines back east proclaimed "Las Vegas Casino Refuses to Honor its Own Chips." The Nevada Gaming Control Board took notice.
The next day, Stupak ask me to meet him in front of the Horseshoe. When I arrived, Bob, his attorney, two Nevada Gaming Control agents, and the news media were there. Against the orders of Horseshoe security guards, we went to the cage where I once again politely requested the chip be cashed.
Becky and Nick refused my request. The Gaming Control agents then officially ordered the Behnens to cash the chip. Becky again refused. The agents ordered her to bring Stupak's cash boxes to the counter. She reluctantly complied. Cashiers hand counted at least $300,000 in one hundred dollar bills. Stupak took his money and left.
The next day we tried one last time. The UNLV football team, who Stupak hired as bodyguards, escorted us into the casino past protesting security guards. To no one's surprise, I left with the now infamous chip in my pocket. We decided to let the gaming officials handle the problem.
Later that day I met with several longtime Horseshoe employees. They told me that Jack and Ted had fully expected their sister to fail, so on their last night at the casino the brothers removed all the $5,000 chips. The plan allegedly was to wait until Becky and Nick were experiencing hard times then cash all the chips at once to break the bank so the brothers could regain control of the Horseshoe.
I was also told by the employees that Ted boasted of having "taken care" of then-gubernatorial candidate Jan Jones with a $50,000 campaign contribution to guarantee him getting his gaming license reinstated if she were elected. The employees said it was taken for granted that Becky and Nick were aware of the scheme. Today, this accusation opens up ominous speculation.
I was told that Ted was paranoid about his safety during the final weeks of his life and had asked old friends to stay close to him day and night. I was also told that someone had broken all of the lenses on the eight security cameras surrounding Ted's house the evening before his death.
The fact that Ted invited Jones over to pick up her money on his last day alive makes me believe that he planned on regaining his gaming license to go back to work at the Horseshoe - possibly with his friend Bob Stupak at his side. Ted obviously did not expect to die the next day.
Reverend Grey's chip along with all the remaining $5,000 chips were finally cashed in July 1999, the day before the Gaming Commission was to hold a hearing on the Behnens.
To further bolster sinister speculation, on August 25, 2000, Stupak and his 23-year-old daughter Summer were assaulted while dining at Piero's restaurant on Convention Center Drive. Three men beat up the father and daughter after claiming that Stupak had "stolen Horseshoe Casino chips."
Later, one of the assailants, Russell R.D. Matthews pleaded "no contest" to battery charges and paid a $1,000 fine. However, District Attorney/politician Stewart Bell refused to prosecute the other two assailants, Grover "Chance" LeSeuer, and Benny Behnen!
In 1996, Ted named LeSeuer and young Benny in a police report as suspects in a drive-by shooting outside his Palomino Lane home. Shortly after the shooting incident, according to an eyewitness, Ted ordered Benny and Nick Behnen off his property at gunpoint.
Chance LeSeuer was found dead in Phoenix, Arizona in 2000. He was only 23 years old when he died of unknown causes.
If a new trial is granted, an undisclosed FBI report and the story of the infamous $5,000 chip may resurface to be tied into a rambling scenario of conspiracy and intrigue that may very well shift the blame for Ted Binion's death to yet unidentified parties. Before this can happen, protests by a politically ambitious prosecutor must be squelched, and a biased judge must be replaced.
Steve Miller writes a weekly column on organized crime and political corruption. Visit his website at: http://www.stevemiller4lasvegas.com