Gov. Doug Burgum aware of data center developer’s dark past

January 28, 2022 GMT

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Gov. Doug Burgum was aware of the troubled past of a businessman involved in the construction of a $1.9 billion data center in northwestern North Dakota, a spokesman said Friday.

Montana-based FX Solutions President Richard Tabish was convicted and then acquitted of killing a Las Vegas casino executive more than two decades ago.

Burgum on Wednesday hailed the center being built by Tabish’s company and operated by Montana-based Atlas Power as one of the biggest such centers in the world, and one that will help diversify the economy in the Williston area that has suffered oil boom-bust cycles for decades.

Uses for data centers include the mining of bitcoin and other digital currencies. Atlas Power currently operates a 75-megawatt data center in Butte, Montana. The North Dakota data center owned by Atlas would be nearly 10 times as large as the Montana facility, once completed.

“Yes, we were familiar with Rick’s background, including his parole in 2010,” Burgum spokesman Mike Nowatzki said in a statement. “He has done business in North Dakota for over a decade, to our knowledge without incident, including with a number of companies in the oil and gas sector.”

Nowatzki said Tabish had companies that specialized oilfield spill cleanup and waste disposal in western North Dakota’s oil-production region.

Tabish, who lives in Missoula, Montana, did not immediately return an email message for comment on Friday.

Tabish gained notoriety at his Las Vegas murder trial in 2000, when he and co-defendant Sandra Murphy were convicted of murdering 55-year-old Ted Binion at his Las Vegas home in 1998 and stealing from his vault.

Prosecutors said the motive was a piece of Binion’s $55 million estate and a cache of more than $5 million in silver bars and coins that Binion had buried in an underground desert vault.

Prosecutors alleged that Murphy and Tabish forced Binion to ingest lethal levels of heroin and the antidepressant Xanax before suffocating him.

Tabish and Murphy were later acquitted of the murder charges in 2004 after the Nevada Supreme Court granted a new trial. The second jury convicted them of charges related to silver theft.

Murphy was released for time already served. Tabish was paroled in 2010.

The Republican governor’s office the said the project has not received any state grants or loans, but could qualify for a sales tax exemption allowed by state law.