A Thousand Pounds of Dynamite
In One of the Most Unusual Ransom Schemes in Nevada history, A Mad Bomber Held an Entire Casino Captive with One Devilishly Mysterious Machine
In the early morning hours of Aug. 26, 1980, three men wheeled what looked like a piece of office equipment into the second floor offices of the 11-story Harvey’s Resort Hotel at Stateline, Lake Tahoe, Nevada.
An employee of Harvey’s Wagon Wheel Casino in Lake Tahoe, discovered the two stacked metallic grey boxes on the casino’s second floor. Unbeknownst to the employee, the boxes had just been delivered to the building by two men posing as delivery guys for IBM.
The “machine” – as the men sometimes called it – was actually a homemade bomb filled with 907 pounds of explosives.
The bomb, designed with a dizzying array of triggering devices, could never be rendered safe, the bombers said in a letter they left behind that morning. The only thing authorities would be able to do is find out how to move it out of the casino to a safe place in the desert, where it could be detonated without destroying any buildings or killing any people.
But the only way to get that information, the bombers said, was to pay them $3 million in unmarked $100 bills. Harvey’s had 24 hours to act. “Any deviation from these conditions will leave your casino in shambles,” the bombers warned.
For the next three days, the normally bustling casino district of Lake Tahoe was shut down as bomb experts from around the country tried to disable the device and authorities tried to meet the extortionists’ demands. The bomb squad would later say that they had never seen a homemade bomb so complex and so powerful, and to this day it remains the most bewildering improvised explosive device the FBI has ever encountered.