Gold Diggers of '97

Page 5 of 7

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.

"He took me in the kitchen and said, 'Sasha, if you ever say I said this, I'll deny it. The one who gets the short end of the stick and is hurt the most will be you. You don't deserve it--that's all I can say.'"

White says she moved out of the house on Willowbrook Drive in May but didn't understand what Tatman meant until she went back to the house to retrieve her belongings. At that point, she says, Tatman called the police and told them she'd broken into the house.

"It was then I knew I was being framed," she claims. White says she feared for her personal safety in Boulder and soon decided to return to Texas, where she now lives.

Since White left town, almost everyone who had anything to do with the Mogul Tunnel Mine has been caught up in a blizzard of litigation. The lawsuits have overtaken the mine like a winter whiteout, and no end is in sight.

The legal wrangling began in early 1994, when Durango Metals sued Rugg for allegedly driving away an investor that wanted to put $5 million into Durango. That investor was COM Inc., the company headed up by Tatman. Durango's main piece of evidence was a conversation Rugg had with Tatman in which he supposedly told him Hartley was stealing ore from the mine. Rugg charges that Hartley and Tatman cooked up the COM Inc. investment purely in order to sue him, hoping he'd be forced to sell the mine to them at a firesale price.

Rugg countersued and presented as evidence internal Durango computer records that Sasha White had turned over to his lawyer after her split with Tatman. The case was eventually settled out of court when Durango agreed to sell its rights to use Rugg's tunnel to another company, Island Investments, which also got control of the Gold Hill Mill as part of the deal.

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Stuart Steers
Contact: Stuart Steers