Stupak's Vegas World 'lunar stones' tested for authenticity

Jun 25, 2012 7:33 PM

Colorful gambler Bob Stupak, whose dream “The Stratosphere” replaced his Vegas World Hotel/Casino on the north end of the Las Vegas Strip, may be gone, but he is not forgotten. In fact, his name is once again in the news.

Years ago, Stupak had on display at the Vegas World’s Moon Rock Café, a sign declaring “Sky’s the Limit.” The display featured a rocket ship and “lunar stones” that allegedly were plucked from the lunar surface by Astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin.

The story, as reported by AP writer Ken Ritter, indicated the recovered stones were given to then President Richard Nixon, who passed them along to Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza. They then passed through the hands of a Costa Rican mercenary and a Baptist missionary before ending up in the hands of Stupak.

Believing that the rocks, if genuine, belong to either Stupak or Nicaragua, Stupak lawyer Richard Wright sent the stones to NASA officials in Houston, Texas, for authentication.

“I told them,” Wright was quoted as saying, “(the rocks belonged to) either Stupak or Nicaragua.

If genuine, said Joe Gutheinz, a retired NASA investigator and moon rock hunter who has spent decades on a quest to find 160 missing moon rock samples around the world, they could be considered priceless or worthless.

“In a sense, they’re worthless because you can’t sell them. But for people who love space, you can’t put a price on it,” said Gutheinz.

As a gambler who always sought an edge, Stupak reportedly bought the rocks for $10,000 and 200,000 shares in his casino from an Arizona preacher/businessman.

“Bob bought it in good faith,” said Wright.

The lawyer received a written promise in April from a NASA attorney that if the rock display is authentic, “NASA will return the rocks to the people of Nicaragua.”

The effort was supported by Gutheinz, who said, “We can only hope that Nicaragua gets its property back.”

If Stupak were here, he probably would have an over/under line on their authenticity.