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Gold Diggers of '97

The TV star, the fortune-teller, the gun-toting miner and Captain Ecology: Meet the loopy cast of characters feuding over a tiny Colorado gold mine.

There were other problems that Maher didn't know about. In January 1995, one month before Maher made his down payment, the state's Mined Land Reclamation Board had issued a cease-and-desist order against the "environmentally conscious" Gold Hill Mill for not properly containing its mine tailings. The mill shut down as ordered, but state officials say that after a heavy snowfall in the spring of 1995, 10,000 cubic feet of tailings from the mill overflowed into Cash Gulch, a tributary of Boulder Creek.

Maher grew even more uncertain about his investment when he learned that Wayne Tatman had broken off his engagement to Sasha White, the rainmaker who'd brought Maher into the picture in the first place. Hartley says the reason for that is simple. He claims Maher's lawsuit is part of a romantic vendetta--Maher and White became lovers, he says, and have conspired against her former fiance. "Wayne Tatman caught Sasha White in an embarrassing position with Bill Maher one night," Hartley says, a charge he has repeated in court documents.

Both Maher and White call the allegation that they were lovers ridiculous and say that it's part of a strategy by Hartley and Tatman to pin all the blame for Durango's problems on White. "It's completely drummed-up bullshit," says Maher.

Rugg agrees and says he thinks White's reputation may be another victim of the Mogul Tunnel fiasco. "They're just trying to ruin her by saying she was sleeping with everybody who wanted to buy stock," says Rugg.

Sasha White says the only thing she did wrong was to fall in love with the wrong guy.

A Texas-born blonde who speaks with a Southern drawl, White lived for several years in Boulder, where she became known for her environmental activism. She organized several conferences on the environment, which is how she befriended Dennis Weaver.

But she says she hooked up with Wayne Tatman entirely by accident in 1993, when she was working as a telemarketer for Great Expectations, a Denver dating service. Tatman had stopped by a Great Expectations booth at the National Western Stock Show and filled out a card expressing an interest in the service.

"He was one of my leads," says White. "I went into work, and his lead was right there on top of the stack. I called him in Gold Hill and asked him to join our dating service."

While Tatman resisted joining, he took the opportunity to befriend White, striking up a conversation with her and asking about her interests. She says she told him she was an environmental activist and that he immediately began talking about his plans to do environmentally sensitive mining in the Colorado mountains. After she told him of her interest in numerology, he asked her to do a reading for him.

"We met, and he immediately began courting me and making promises," recalls White. "It was the biggest bunch of lines I've ever heard. He said he'd make me the happiest woman in the world."

Nevertheless, White soon found herself falling for a man who was unlike any other she'd been involved with. She describes him as a rugged-looking mountain man who fancied cowboy hats and rawhide jackets. "He drank a lot of beer," she adds. "He didn't care a hoot what he looked like or about taking showers. He'd go for several days without shaving."

But Tatman's seeming passion for the earth was highly attractive to White. "He'd talk to me about his gold mine and doing it in an environmental way and cleaning up the messes left behind by other miners," she says. "That was music to my ears."

Soon Tatman was sharing a home with White on Willowbrook Drive in Boulder. In the summer of 1994, White says, she became involved in Tatman's business ventures after he offered her a 10 percent finder's fee for attracting investors to Durango Metals. She says Tatman also told her he'd donate $1 per ton of ore processed at the Gold Hill Mill to her environmental campaign and $1 per ton to Dennis Weaver's institute.

White began typing up documents for Durango. She says Tatman and Hartley would meet privately in the home, excluding her from their business meetings. "They never let me go on any of the tours or into their meetings," she says. "Now I know why. It's because they didn't want me to know about their lies."

But Hartley scoffs at White's description of herself as an innocent victim. He claims that White, not he or Tatman, was the mastermind behind Maher's $200,000 investment in Durango Metals and accuses her of forging the promotional material that Durango used to entice Maher to invest. That material has since been submitted as evidence in the dentist's lawsuit.

In court documents, Hartley also claims that White approached him in 1995 and asked him "to pay, on behalf of Tatman, a half-million dollar palimony settlement. In exchange, White allegedly said that she would block Maher from filing a lawsuit against the defendants."

All of which is so much bosh, says White. She says she is being set up as the "fall guy" by Hartley and her former fiance. She recalls a conversation she had with Tatman before they broke up in the spring of 1995.

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