I-Team: Residents in Small Nevada Town on Edge - 8 News NOW

I-Team: Residents in Small Nevada Town on Edge

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Little A'Le'Inn is the main attraction in Rachel, Nevada. Little A'Le'Inn is the main attraction in Rachel, Nevada.
The Extraterrestrial Highway in Rachel, Nevada. The Extraterrestrial Highway in Rachel, Nevada.
Records show the properties were purchased by Richard Bunck who is shown in this picture. Records show the properties were purchased by Richard Bunck who is shown in this picture.
The closed gas station. The closed gas station.

RACHEL, NEV. -- Residents of Rachel, Nevada -- the tiny town that became world famous because it sits on the doorstep of the Area 51 military base -- are on edge. Someone has been buying up property under their noses, and when they checked to find out who was behind it, they found ties to the white supremacy movement.

You have to be tough to live in a place like Rachel. It's not exactly known for its amenities. So, when the only gas station in town gets gobbled up, then shut down and when the only trailer park gets purchased, then wiped out, it's bound to attract attention. And when residents learned that the people who have been buying their town have ties to neo-Nazis and white supremacists, they were creeped out and anxious.

Rachel, Nevada is the number one attraction on the world's only extraterrestrial highway. That said, there's not a whole lot to it. The heart and soul of the town is the Little A'Le'Inn which has capitalized on its proximity to the world's most famous classified military base -- Area 51.

For 25 years, the owners have scratched out an existence by catering to UFO hunters and desert travelers. But these days, they're worried, all because of a mystery man who came to town.

"Who is this person and why are you keeping yourself so secret from this community, because he didn't actually show his face to anybody," said Connie West, proprietor of the Little A'Le'Inn.

"I was in shock. I didn't want to believe," said Pat Travis, co-co-owner of the Little A'Le'Inn.

The first sign of trouble was when someone bought the town's only convenience store and gas station. It was renamed the Alien Cowpoke to attract the UFO crowd, but within a matter of weeks, the new owner closed it down, a huge loss for visitors and locals.

"It was the only gas station in town. Now we keep a little gas for emergency purposes, for people who don't pay attention to the sign that the next store is 150 miles," Travis said.

"It made no sense to cut everybody off in town. It was the only way to get groceries on a daily basis if they needed a loaf of bread or a gallon of milk," West added.

Next, the trailer park and RV lot, home to dozens of long-term residents as well as the snowbirds who camped out for months each winter. The new owner shut it down and told everyone to get out. Today, it's completely empty. The pastor at the small Baptist church next door saw his congregation drop by two-thirds.

"The numbers were dwindling because I could look out the front door of the church and see the trailer park was completely cleaned out. The town population was going down. The actual census right now is in the neighborhood of 75 and it was closer to 300, when we got here,' said Robert Kenniston.

Pastor Kenniston and his wife live in Boulder City but make the 350-mile road trip every Sunday in order to tend their Rachel flock.

Kenniston, a former news reporter, did some digging. What he found was that same man who had purchased the store, and the trailer park had also scooped up several large parcels of raw land in the heart of Rachel. Property records show the owner Richard Bunck quickly transferred his new real estate into the name of the JHM Baptist Church. Kenniston was floored when he looked it up.

"Their church is identified by the experts as Christian identity and neo-Nazi. And those two little niches are the most dangerous, I'm told," Kenniston said.

Watchdog groups list JHM Church as a white supremacist outfit, in the same category with the KKK and racist skinheads. It's the same name Richard Bunck uses for his business as a licensed Nevada contractor. The initials JHM are believed to stand for John Hale Mcgee, a southern California minister affiliated with the American Nazi party and who preached the gospel of white supremacy. When Kenniston told Rachel residents what he had uncovered, he got a visit from Richard Bunck.

"And he looked at me and said, 'There's a story going around town that I am a neo-Nazi and a white supremacist, and I believe you are the reason for that story.' And I said, 'I believe you are the reason for that story,' and that was the end of the conversation," Kenniston said.

Bunck's Nazi affiliations have surfaced before. In the 90s, he and John Hale Mcgee ran for public office in Southern California as candidates for a right wing party. Candidate Bunck, at first, denied any connection to racist groups but reporters dug up photos showing Bunck in the 70s at Nazi rallies wearing a Nazi type uniform, with swastikas and anti-Jewish signs. Bunck's first lie fell apart, so he tried other stories.

"He finally came in, gave us this BS that he was part of an FBI undercover thing. That story fell apart later, he admits later that no, 'I wasn't FBI, but it was a youthful indiscretion. I didn't know what I was doing,'" said Gary Scott, a public radio journalist.

Scott didn't buy the idea that it was a passing fancy by Bunck, especially since Bunck has been arrested at least twice at pro-Nazi rallies. And today, decades later, he is still using the name of his now deceased friend and neo-Nazi mentor.

"When I look up the name on the side of his truck or the church he is associated with, the first thing that pops up is a link to white supremacists. What am I supposed to think?" West said.

Residents of Rachel say they have recently been interviewed by FBI agents who asked them questions about Bunck and his intentions. The I-Team tried to reach Mr. Bunck through the contact information on his contractor's license but have not yet received a response. The I-Team will have further reports on this as new information surfaces.

 

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