Orange County Register: Did LBJ, Nixon Steal Gold?


Original Article

Part III of the Treasure Hunt. Previously: "The Gold House: The True Story of Victorio Peak," by John Clarence, is the most thorough probe to date on the 75-year-old lost-treasure mystery that has consumed the family of the late Doc Noss.

The two most incredible allegations in the book are that presidents Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon had a hand in stealing gold.

Victorio Peak is located in southern New Mexico on White Sands Missile Range.

I heard a bit about the LBJ allegation when I visited New Mexico in 1992, but Terry Delonas, a Noss heir and an O.C. resident, had been cryptic. By 2000, Delonas was ready to talk. He furnished Clarence with documents, and Clarence obtained affidavits and conducted interviews with others.

Key is an affidavit he obtained from a man named Jim McKee, a gold investor in Delaware. McKee said he was approached in 1989 by representatives of a Texas man named Billy Carr, who purportedly had been a friend of LBJ. McKee was told that Carr was working with the Johnson family to unload 6 million ounces of gold that was "part of a treasure removed by the United States Army from Victorio Peak" and that it was "located in underground bunkers somewhere on the Johnson ranch."

McKee and Delonas started negotiating with Carr, who said he was willing to sell the gold to the Noss family well below market value. The Johnsons couldn't sell the gold on the open market because they had no legitimate provenance. The Nosses, on the other hand, did. The gold was to be shipped to Canada, re-refined and sold there. Or so Carr's story went.

Whether Carr was really working for the Johnsons hasn't been proven, and McKee never saw the gold. What does seem clear from documents is that McKee and Delonas negotiated with Carr between 1989 and 1993; that when Carr died, they continued negotiating with his partners until 1998; that attorneys and CPAs in the U.S. and Canada were involved; that McKee's attorney put up $70,000 at one point to fund an initial shipment of the gold; and that the deal fell through and the $70,000 was returned.

It definitely has the hallmarks of a scam – except nine years is a long time to run a con and the only money exchanged, $70,000, was returned.

The alleged Nixon connection begins with a memo by a top Nixon aide, John Ehrlichman, written in 1970. While he was with Nixon in San Clemente, he wrote, "I was called on by a Mr. Keith Alexander ... who claims to have secret knowledge of the location of 742 bars of gold weighing 40 pounds each." Alexander was seeking the rights to it.

Alexander's name then turns up in a 1975 book about Victorio Peak. In it, attorney F. Lee Bailey, who represented some claimants to the gold in the 1970s, said Alexander and another man, Fred Drolte, had told him about the treasure. Drolte's name then turns up in an interview Clarence conducted in 2004 with a man named Richard Moyle, who was also a gold hunter.

Moyle said he had worked for Drolte. Drolte reportedly told Moyle that he had been in contact with Nixon about removing some gold, that he got a key to a back gate of the missile range from Nixon, and the theft occurred over Thanksgiving weekend in 1973. An FBI report shows that an Army lawyer contacted the FBI about an illegal entry to the Victorio Peak area that weekend and that the trespassers had used dynamite.

The linkages between all these actors are not perfect. Also, Drolte had been convicted of running guns in the 1960s, so he's not the most upstanding individual. Some might say it adds to the probability that he was involved. It's an outrageous tale to be sure, but then so was Watergate and the White House Plumbers' dirty tricks.

So where's the gold? Clarence believes there have been perhaps six major lootings since Doc Noss claimed to have found it. But, he told me, "I believe a small treasure is still in there."

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