A Mexican businessman buries 16 tons of gold in the New Mexico desert and then dies before telling anyone where it is.

Leon Trabuco with a cane in a white suit and hat standing next to a campfire as a plane lands in the background

Leon Trabuco brought Mexico’s gold to the US

Leon using a shovel to dig s a hole in the new mexico desert

He buried 16 tons of gold bars in New Mexico

CASE DETAILS

Farmington, New Mexico, 1933. In the heat of the summer, a pilot named Red Moiser landed several mysterious flights in the desert. There, he was met by a Mexican millionaire named Leon Trabuco.

Ed pointing at an inscription on a rock

Ed found a clue on Shrine Rock

It’s believed that Trabuco and four other men were quietly buying up much of Mexico’s gold reserves to resell in the United States when the price went up. Trabuco was convinced that because of the Great Depression, the United States would soon devalue the dollar, and that gold prices would skyrocket. But the chance to make huge profits carried huge risks. The gold had to be smuggled into the United States. If the men were caught, they faced long prison terms.

At a makeshift Mexican foundry, gold coins and jewelry were melted down and cast into ingots. In less than three months, the partners had collected almost 16 tons of solid gold.
Trabuco searched the US for a safe place to hide the illegal treasure. When he couldn’t find a suitable spot, he decided it would be smarter to bury the gold.

Legend has it that Trabuco chose a sparsely populated region of New Mexico, near the Ute and Navajo Indian Reservations. Red Moiser allegedly made 16 flights, carrying one ton of gold each time. Pick up trucks then transported it to a secret burial site. Trabuco never revealed the location to his co-conspirators. And he never made a map.

A diagram that forms a triangle of land with the corner being a mountain, an airplane, and a house

The gold was buried somewhere in the triangle

Records indicate that the final shipment was delivered on July 14, 1933. Six months later, the Gold Reserve Act of 1934 became law. The price of gold soared. Overnight, the men’s potential profit increased by seven million dollars.

The group decided not to sell the gold, hoping the price would go even higher. But they were not aware of an executive order related to the Gold Act. It declared that after January 1934, private ownership of gold within the US was illegal. According to treasure hunter Ed Foster, the partners had missed their chance to strike it rich:

“FDR put into effect the gold embargo that takes gold off of the market and makes it illegal, and so, consequently, these five men from Mexico City, they had 20 ton of junk. It was not worth a dime because they couldn’t sell it for anything.”

The gold seemed to bring bad luck. Within five years, three of the partners had died untimely deaths. Over the next two decades, Trabuco was unable to sell the now illegal gold. When he died, he apparently took the secret location to his grave.

For 35 years, Ed Foster searched for Trabuco’s treasure in the desert around Farmington, New Mexico. He’s convinced that he found the 1933 landing strip used by Red Moiser on a plateau called Conger Mesa:

“I believe that Conger Mesa is where the plane would adjust and come in and land. I met this Indian lady that couldn’t speak English so I got an interpreter. She said she had watched that plane land there many, many times.”

Ed interviewed another Navajo woman who was six years old in 1933. Ed said she remembered several Mexican men who lived on the Reservation:

“This would be very unusual for a Mexican to move out here. For a Spanish or a White man to move out here and live would be unheard of.”

Twenty miles west of the mesa, near an old Navajo home, stands a building unlike any other on the reservation. Ed believes it was built by men Trabuco hired to guard the gold:

“This house has windows, a front door, and a back door. And it had a veranda. To me, this house would look good in Tijuana, Mexico, but not on the Navajo reservation.”

Ed also found another intriguing clue: a date and some words etched in the face of a stone outcropping. He calls it Shrine Rock, and believes it may be the key to finding Trabuco’s treasure. It reads: “1933 sixteen ton.”

Ed is sure that the gold is buried somewhere within this triangle formed by Conger Mesa, Shrine Rock and the Mexican-style home. Ed asked renowned treasure hunter Norman Scott to make a detailed survey of the area:

“I get an awful lot of stories coming to us after thirty years in the business and probably about 80 or 90 percent of them you have to chalk up to some fictional writer who is writing a book or a magazine. But this one has a ring of authenticity to it.”

Ed Foster had a plan:

“I have looked with my eyes and metal detectors for many years. And now they have technology, and that’s why I think it’s going to be found, with technology. It’s not gonna be found with dumb luck, because I’ve spent all of that.”

Is Ed Foster just chasing a legend? Or does the desert of New Mexico hold the secret to Leon Trabuco’s long lost fortune?


Watch this case now on Amazon Prime in season four with Robert Stack and in season four with Dennis Farina. Also available on YouTube with Dennis Farina. Various seasons available now on Hulu.

 

60 Comments

  1. Joe

    I want to go find the gold. My talents are code cracking, and I am an excellent marksman. Anyone who wants to go help me.find it, 16 tons of gold is roughly 1 billion in gold of not a little more, that’s plenty for up to 10 of us. I live in Vegas I am not too far away. I need folks with skill sets before I finance the expedition.

    Email me baseballjoe06@gmail.com

    Reply

    • Dan Pajeau

      I currently treasure hunt the Southern New Mexico (Las Cruces) area, locating long lost items including knives, coins, bottles, camp sites, musket balls, and such. I reside in Wisconsin and travel to the area frequently. This started as a recreational thing for me, however has become something much more as my wife and I are spending 6 months a year deep into this “hobby”.
      This story caught my eye this morning as I’m looking for a “legend” to research, instead of just doing geographical research and following ghost towns, abandoned gold mines, the old rail road, wagon trails, and such. Unlike the “legends” of Doc Noss, the lost Dutchman gold mine, and many others, this appears more plausible during the timeframe.
      If you’re willing to help with the finance of the operation, I’m willing to lead the exploration and recovery and would be interested in further discussion.

      Reply

  2. Classified..!

    I know more about this than anyone in here talking. But they won’t post what I’ve wrote?? Oooh well..!! I’ve lived in San Juan county for 64 years and my family has been in the area for over 175 years.!! I’ll say it’s original hiding spot has been found.

    Reply

    • Prospector

      How do you know that? I have a theory on it’s original location.

      Reply

      • DH G

        There’s been several people say it was moved, I actually met a guy from Cortez who had spent quite a bit of time exploring near Shiprock NM. He had some pretty fancy equipment, I had found one of his pelican cases that had fallen off his atv and he knew I was the only one in the area so he found me and told me his story which I had already heard prior to him talking.

        Reply

  3. DH Sterling

    There’s to many things to prove this story is real, I knew a man Tom who was a twelve year old child in 1933 and he told me his stories of the plane flying overhead near his home, he lived his life in Marvel Colo, There were no pickup trucks involved in this story, they purchased one old farm truck from a farmer who my friend Tom knew, there’s two old homes that could have been the house but there’s nothing left to prove the veranda, I found a old wooden wheel off a old farm truck and one headlight ring and half of a pair of broken binoculars with brass rings to hold the lens in. I did have one friend who had seen the 16 ton carved on the rock in “Roman numerals”, I found a cave so hidden you would wonder how I found it but I did, it’s not Navajo it’s Mexican, there’s one unnatural marker to show the way to the location of this cave, all the items I’ve found binoculars, wheel, shriner rock are south of the cave, which is lined with stacked stones, I’m getting old and I know it would be pretty cool for someone to find this before I die.!!!

    Reply

  4. DH Sterling

    I’ve live in San Juan county 64 years, I know a lot about this story, it was actually moved from its original location near the dome but they say it was moved towards Shiprock, they say it’s less than a one hours drive from downtown Shiprock?? But I do know where it’s original hiding spot was, which is still very hidden to this day and NOT on Ute property.

    Reply

  5. Vinny

    I spent today around Barkers Dome. If it is there ,there are so many possible places it could be. I don’t believe my metal detector will find the gold but it might find something that would relate to being in the right area. I’m probing under rock enscarpments in that area. The cave is covered up but it is findable.

    Reply

  6. Paul Reynolds

    Once unloaded on to a truck or trucks. Those drivers new were the gold was taken. But if in containers they would not have known it was gold. And any of the ones buying the gold would have known where the gold was taken. And maybe that’s why so many were removed to leave one left to take the gold?

    Reply

  7. JG

    Yes….I am absolutely sure that if this treasure exists, the United States government would have let a private citizen find – and keep – all 16 tons of gold. There’s no way the government would have kept looking for $800 million dollars worth of solid gold. I think the entire booty is under a local Navajo woman’s hogan; most likely next to a large sheep corral. If anyone out there will provide a small, reasonable amount of financial backing to help me purchase necessary mining equipment – say, $2 million in cash – I am completely confident in finding this long-lost treasure.

    Reply

    • Johnhenry guzman

      I’m pretty sure this mans gold is on this property and my family is taking it from me
      The rumor is my great grandfather his the gold for him in the 30’s

      Reply

  8. JustAGuy

    @Matthew – Did that activity happen after this show aired?

    Reply

  9. Matthew

    I actually know W.C. Jameson, and told him the story and showed him the evidence but he didn’t appear to be interested. I have the satellite images, newspaper articles, and all of the subsequent documents that my dad had before he passed. I will say that there is a quarter sized, smooth polished, Apache tear lying directly on top of the spot. My dad dropped it there himself and I was there.

    Reply

  10. Matthew

    I know personally of a location. I have always thought that it was a Spanish bank from the 1500s, but now I’m not so sure. There were actually 3 locations (anomalies) identified by ground penetrating radar. One was found with over a million dollars in ingots, and 3 of the 4 men were arrested for illegally using explosives. My father was the one who got away. There were two additional anomalies, one that would have equated to approximately 6 million dollars, and a third that was 100 times the size. I can walk to the exact spot today. It’s not tribal land.

    Reply

    • Kailyn

      So if you know of the location, then why don’t you dig it up?

      Reply

    • Rowan Braga

      If you have more information about the location of the two other anomalies or can identify them I can finance the expedition please message me. I am a geologist and pilot I have been following this story for a few years. Any more information would be great thank you.

      Reply

  11. Ian D.

    This is basically the same story as told by W.C. Jameson in his book New Mexico Treasure Tales (mostly fiction with a few famous names thrown in), only with different names. Both stories have some serious holes in them, I’ll mention just one related to this version. “Red” Mosier was indeed a real person (how many pilots could there be named “Red” Mosier), an accomplished aviator that started flying with the Army Signal Corps in WWI, he became a test pilot in Colorado Springs and from 1933 to 1937 he was city manager of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma and later became Vice President of Braniff and American Airlines. I highly doubt that Mr. Mosier would leave his job as city manager for 6 months to smuggle gold. W.C. Jameson’s version of this story mentions W.C. Elliot of the Salt Lake City area as pilot, who, according to Jameson died in a plane crash during WWII in England. There are no records of Mr. Elliot in the National Archives as MIA or KIA in WWII, nor are there records of anyone by that name in the Salt Lake area.

    Reply

  12. Ramiro Valdez

    Trabuco’s gold? Interesting, here is a businessman who saw an opportunity coming where he could make big money by selling gold illegally in the U. S. He partnered with four other gold investor and it is unknown as to which one helped him buried the gold? They buried the gold in an undisclosed area waiting on the price of gold to rise. It was buried in July of 1933 and while waiting, in 1934, a new law went into effect where they could not sell off their gold. Since gold had not gone up in buying price, they proceeded to go to option plan 2 which was to find someone that could buy the gold from them. It seems that they found someone who was willing to buy their gold but had to wait till the price went up.The price of gold finally started to rise in 1936, but according to another source whom claimed that the U. S. Secret Service got wind of someone trying to launder gold coming from Mexico? Who ever wanted to buy Travuco’s gold had no choice but to abandon the deal. At set time three of his investors had suddenly died. There is no mention as to who was the fourth person involved? Supposedly, Trabuco and this mysterious person were the only two that remain as part of the deal. Trabuco and his pilot mentioned that they took the gold to an undisclosed area where someone else transported the gold somewhere else to be buried? The fourth man on Trabuco’s list was probably the one who buried the gold because he probably was from New Mexico. This fourth man may have been a German spy who is now part of another story of gold that was buried in New Mexico? They claim that he left behind several cipher maps that entail where the gold is buried. He either shot himself cause he was a loyal servant to the German cause or someone shot him? The two stories are very similar except Trabuco didn’t know where his gold was buried and the German spy story says that he buried the gold that belong to him and other Mexican investors. Two very secret operations and both very similar where they both brought gold from Mexico in to New Mexico and you would wonder if they knew each other. The only man left alive was Trabuco with no gold, no map and no one alive to tell him about it. Who buried the gold? Well I’m about to decipher the cipher map and explain what it means since that’s the only thing left to do. So if you say that you need more information that may lead to the gold? Then you should be reading my posts on treasurenet concerning the German Nazi Lue cipher treasure map second thread on treasurenet.

    Reply

  13. carey w scruggs

    Well, well does Trabuco’s gold exist? The Treasury department and the Secret service seemed to think so in the late 40’s and early 50’s. They were probably motivated by the fact that a large amount of gold had entered the U.S.without having paid the required import duties that in itself would have been considered smuggling and as a result the gold would have been considered contraband by them and because of this the gold was and still is considered property of the U.S. government and no statute of limitations apply. I think that the gold exists, however because of the situation as stated it is better off left where it is.

    Reply

  14. Ryan

    I’m willing to aid any crews looking for this. 35 Male looking for adventure and to possibly make some money. Phoenix, AZ

    Reply

    • alex

      I need to find out exactly where this triangle is at! I live close, miles away and have 1 four wheeler that will get me anywhere out there.

      Reply

  15. jimmy

    I know how the gold can be found using modern technology and science. I just lack the funds to purchase equipment then six months of search time.

    Reply

    • tye brown

      how can you find it if you did have the money to do so, this is 16 tons of gold so if it can be found i might be able to find a way to help fund this if you seriously know how to find it. also though take into consideration i am of Cherokee decent and it sits on Navajo nation land who arent all that friendly to white people but are even less friendly to Cherokee nation. the looks i got and the words that were said to me when i visited made me know i was less welcome there than a cockroach

      Reply

  16. Tom C

    Did anyone think they could have built the house on top of it? It states a ton of gold per trip; 2204.62 lbs. Even using trucks, the sheer weight of gold bars would be near impossible to move through sand to caves. I also question whether a small 1920’s bi-plane can take off carrying a half-ton, plus one pilot and fuel, and land on that small airstrip. Someone would have noticed the use of pack mules. I bet its a simpler version. Like they moved it in a truck across the border. There was little to no border control. Also, anyone finding that would have been smart to keep it a secret. People have been murdered for 20 bucks.

    Reply

  17. Franz

    I would be willing to assist any party in the search. Franzmuhr@gmail.com
    Strong and fit, 40 years old, have equipment, and I live in western Colorado.

    Reply

  18. Santana Graves

    What if the gold is closer to the air strip? It would be really hard to carry a ton of gold bar by bar to a hole that must have been big and deep. Also each bar is roughly 27 pounds I believe. Just a thought

    Reply

    • Ian D.

      One author does indeed suggest that the gold is buried on the west side of the mesa near the air strip. W.C. Jameson’s New Mexico Treasure Tales has a slightly different version of this story.

      Reply

  19. alan

    its buried on my great gmom plot who was 50%native american and bought mineral rights on rio grande estates

    Reply

  20. Me

    I have no idea where he buried the gold, but I certainly know what the area of the treasure looks like , as I have seen people finding big treasures in the same way.

    Reply

    • Explore 69

      There was some old caves the Spanish excavated out in that area and the Indians mine gold he drove a 1/2 an hour from the air field And put the gold inside the cave then he planted Dynamite at the entrance and blew it closed All you have to do is find the airport it would have not been a fast ride in an old truck so he could have went a long ways I would say was in 10 miles from the airport is where it is buried

      Reply

  21. Amanda

    Hire Nathan Drake and Sully! They will find it!

    Reply

  22. George Jetson

    I assure you it’s there. My great grandfather was Orvil Moiser,He gave me a envelope of pictures along with a geographic drawing from Leo Vincent Brothers AKA VINCENT BADER. Vincent was one of your two mystery drivers The catch is that it’s now under a native burial ground and you will never be able to dig it up.

    Reply

  23. C. Martin

    There’s seems to be a lot of stories of lost gold hoards in NM & West Texas (El Paso County). This case, the Pancho Villa gold supposedly given to him by the Germans hidden in the hills of El Paso, the lost gold of the Franklin Mountains, the lost Padre gold. I’m sure I’m leaving out a few. All seem to have the same string: a gold hoard, secreted away without a map, the person/people who hid it died, now nobody can find it. Kinda like how La Llerona is said to “originate” from Albuquerque to El Paso and even Presidio and all up and down the Rio Grande. Perhaps some of these tales all originate from one story and branch away to their own local version of urban legend and myth.

    Reply

  24. Mark Daugherty

    Gee, would you think the 16,000 gold bars found on the White sands missile range in New Mexico could possibly be it?

    Reply

  25. Renee Lunasco

    I know excatly Ware it is . Really it’s common sense. But I’ll keep that to my self unless so eone like fly myself and my dog from Hawaii ? For real.

    Reply

  26. Deneb

    I found the place that behold the 16 tons of gold,is in a little town near navajo’s reserve .I only need to reactivate my US passport(Im a Mexican treasure hunter) , rent a truck to excavate 1.5meters ,1 heavy truck to transport tje metal and 3 people to help me in the work. 4 tons per head in this mission.

    Reply

    • Jose

      I have a good metal detector and can help

      Reply

      • Stoner

        Would be sick finding it like. I’m from the UK and think it’s near the rock shine as there’s an arrow pointing beneath it, it’s never been educated before so who knows where it is, if it exists just like Adams lost canyon and his treasure

        Reply

    • Kailyn

      It has been a dream of mine to find gold, I would totally love to help! my email is @pufferfish900@gmail.com

      Reply

  27. got it

    departure strip, airplane type, fuel tank size with weight and flight time incorp., = landing radius(strip), heavy-duty truck; yr!+mk&mdl=+/-travel radius take all that and add deception. it’s probably in Arizona.

    Reply

  28. Walter

    If you are Mexican nationals trying to hide gold (or anything illegal) why would you build a house that stands out?
    Also, the price of gold should have increased just due to inflation so he would have moved it back to Mexico and sold it.

    Reply

  29. 762x51FMJ

    Seems like a hoax because it is too much gold.
    So it seems too good to be true.
    Better off putting on diving suit and search
    Pudget Sound for the USS Islander.
    At least it is definately somewhere.

    Reply

  30. mopedsports.org

    Get a Cordoba dog on this treasure they will find it if it even real ed foster

    Reply

  31. H.Charles Beil

    The treasure is a hoax. The first mention of it historically is by WC Jamison. None of these people exist in any census record or national archive in the US or Mexico! Do your research….Don’t get scammed!

    Reply

  32. EMMETT

    I am a pilot and treasure hunter n florida…I always was intetested in this treasure…it can be aerial surveyed with some new neat tecnology …even using drones….I would love to put a group together to look and recover it…BUT isn’t it on NAVAHOE land…and can the US Goverment put a claim on it..they are greedy…

    Reply

    • Bruce

      Hey Emmett:
      I may be able to help you – please reply to: bhtvcasting@gmail.com

      Reply

    • Walter

      You have to read the regulation (its complex). This is my summarization: the greedy US gave each Indian a personal plot of land and allowed them to sell it. So even though it is on a reservation (where the tribe has legal rights to all minerals) the owner of that plot of land (probably a non-indian) got mineral rights when they bought the land.

      Reply

  33. Alosh Denny

    I think I found where Leon must have buried the gold. If Red Moiser had flown the gold to the US, and the trucks had driven it to the burial site, then sure enough one of the drivers should’ve known where it was buried(unless Leon Trabuco shot everyone dead).

    Reply

    • Walter

      That’s one thing that seems to be missing from a lot of these “unreal amount of gold” tales. It takes quite a few people to move this stuff so someone has to know where the truck was unloaded, if not the exact location of the hole.

      Reply

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