They are manifest in complex court documents, scathing missives and accusatory letters, combining to show how the richest uranium find in U.S. history made Charlie Steen
a king, then blew his
...Charlie Steen: "Uranium King" PHOTO GALLERYCharlie Steen: Uranium King
...Charlie Steen, who had received a bachelor's degree in geology from a the Texas College of Mines and Metallurgy in 1943, heeded the feds' call.
In 1950, he
wife, M.L., and his
three young sons, Andrew, John and Charles Jr., to a trailer in Dove Creek to start his
search.The family, with a fourth son, Mark, later moved into a tar-paper shack near Cisco
, Utah, and lived on poached venison, beans and cereal. Charlie
tramped across the desert off and on for two years, staking several claims in the Big Indian Wash, an area other prospectors and government geologists had studied and rejected.He
was convinced the uranium he
sought was buried deeper in the earth than others had drilled.People referred to it as "Steen's Folly."
"People called me a fraud and a shyster.They didn't really believe it.But I knew it was there all along.I had no doubt," Charlie told The Daily Sentinel in 1992.
On July 6, 1952, at the age of 32, Charlie
hit the richest vein of uranium ore in American history using a borrowed drill.
didn't sit on the windfall.He
spent it - lavishly.
For M.L., he
bought a new car, fur coats and diamonds.For himself, he
bought an airplane so he
could fly to Salt Lake City for weekly rumba lessons and circle the skies above Moab.For the family, he
bought a yacht and trips around the world.He
built a $250,000 hilltop mansion in Moab and threw huge parties for the townspeople.He formed Utex Exploration Company, Moab Drilling Company, Mi Vida Company, Big Indian Mines Inc. and the Uranium Reduction Company. Charlie
was also charitable with his
donated $50,000 toward a new hospital in Moab
and contributed land for schools and churches.
Little did he
know the uranium that made him a multimillionaire would eventually explode in his
ran for Utah Senate
in 1958 and won, then promptly angered the Mormon state by introducing bills to allow liquor by the drink, horse racing and a lower legal age to purchase cigarettes.All three measures were defeated. Charlie
resigned three years later and moved his
family to Reno, Nev., where he
built a 27,000-square-foot mansion.He
mine and attempted to diversify his
invested in a series of bad ventures, including a pickle factory, marble quarry, copper mine, airport factory and cattle ranch.He
began losing money.
In 1968, the IRS
property for nonpayment of taxes, forcing him to file for bankruptcy.It took 11 years for the Steens to settle with the federal government.
"I often think it's a pity that they didn't wipe us out completely," Andrew said.
With no funds to run their mansion, the family ate beans by candlelight after their power had been shut off.Charlie
was desperate to make one of his
mining ventures work.But while working at a drilling site in California in 1971, he was struck in the head by a drill.He
underwent emergency surgery and spent 33 days in a coma. Charlie
and M.L. eventually moved to Longmont, where, in Boulder County, they owned gold-mining properties called the Gold Hill Venture.The family has tried to develop them for years.
The Steen family began splitting into factions in the early 1970s, and much of the animosity that now exists between fathers, sons, aunts, nephews, grandparents and grandchildren can be traced back to 1973, when Mi Vida Enterprises Inc.
That the company was founded to protect and attempt to build on the family's remaining assets is about the only point on which Charlie's
four sons can concur.
A new chapter in the family embroilment, however, was written last fall, this time over the custody of Charlie
It was prompted by a welfare check requested by Andrew after he
said Mark refused to let him visit their father at his
home in Longmont, where Charlie
was living with another son, John.
Fierro's account differs greatly from that of Longmont police, who wrote in an Oct. 8 report that Charlie
"was found to have ample food, clean clothing, and shelter.He
was not in danger of serious physical harm due to inability or failure to provide himself the essential human needs."
Andrew filed an emergency petition asking the court to appoint him as guardian of Charlie
and override the guardianship granted to Mark.He
backed off that request last week and threw his
support behind another party in the mix, Brandon Fields. Fields, the court-appointed attorney for Charlie, has asked a Boulder County judge to appoint him guardian ad litem in the custody case.
Mark insists Charlie
is happy and comfortable in Fort Collins and says he
opposes any attempt to move his
father or change guardianship.
A hearing to determine whether a Boulder County judge or Larimer County judge has jurisdiction over the issue of custody of Charlie
is set to be held in Boulder on Jan. 19.
Meanwhile, Andrew and Mark continue to trade verbal punches, launching personal attacks on one another.Each insists he
will be victorious in court.
Andrew refers to Mark as a "coward," "cheat" and "fraud" and says Mark is driven by money, something he
claims is not of interest to him when it comes to settling the lawsuits.
still doesn't get that this isn't about money," Andrew said of his
younger brother."It's about righting some wrongs and putting a stop to this shameful, scandalous thievery."
Mark counters with allegations that Andrew is using their father's disease to try to gain leverage in his