Heber Springs Man Allegedly Claims Legendary Gold

by George Waldon  on Monday, Jun. 6, 2011 12:00 am  

Joe Blankenship: "Let's do this deal and get everyone whole."

While creditors continue to foreclose on and resell his real estate, erstwhile millionaire Joe Blankenship has tried to repair his finances with a scheme better suited to a movie script.

Blankenship, formerly of Little Rock and currently of Heber Springs, has told past and potential business associates that he has tapped into a cache of Yamashita's gold, a legendary treasure trove of World War II booty allegedly amassed by the Japanese during their Asian conquests.

He has been looking for financing to help get the gold out of the Philippines to Canada via Kenya in a cloak-and-dagger quest to avoid government entanglements.

"I am in Nairobi, Kenya," he wrote in an email this spring that included photos of him posing with stacks of shiny metal bars and boxes of glittering nuggets. "I realize our relationship has been strained over the past year but now is the time to put that aside and to do a business deal so that all of us ... get whole."

And he continued:

"I have a total of 1,018 kilos.... Estimated value is $42.62 million retail based on $1,373 per ounce. My contract is for a 15 percent discount, so we net $6.4 million. We need a refinery to take us out at about a 5-7.5 percent discount. That nets us $3.2 million-$4.3 million.

"For your effort, I'll give you $1 million...."

"It's the wildest scheme I've seen," said Ron Crawford, president of Maumelle's Southland Metals, who holds a $400,000 judgment against Blankenship. "His metals business is chasing suckers because it's obvious he doesn't have any gold."

According to Crawford and confirmed by others who declined to be named, Blankenship used the lure of Yamashita's gold to entice individuals to loan him money. Contacted by phone about his gold business, Blankenship didn't have much to say.

"That's just a bunch of rumors going around town," he said.

What is he up to these days?

"Just trying to help sell copies of Arkansas Business," Blankenship said before excusing himself, saying he needed to take another phone call.

Blankenship enjoyed a multimillion-dollar payday in 2002 when he sold his stake in a Little Rock email database company, Total eData Corp., to ChoicePoint Inc. of Alpharetta, Ga.



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