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Yellowstone treasure hunter faces prison for digging up graveyard

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Yellowstone treasure hunter faces prison for digging up graveyard 1

A quest for treasure has led a Utah man into serious legal trouble.

Rodrick Dow Craythorn, 52, dug up graves at Fort Yellowstone Cemetery in search of riches and now he has pled guilty to excavating or trafficking in archeological resources and injury or depredation to United States property.

Craythorn’s formal admission was entered on Monday, Jan. 4, at the US District Court of Wyoming, according to a news release from the Department of Justice.

The avid treasure hunter was allegedly found digging in the preserved cemetery in Yellowstone National Park between Oct. 1, 2019 and May 24, 2020. He was reportedly in search of Forrest Fenn’s buried treasure.

Fenn, a New Mexico art dealer, had announced in 2010 that he buried a chest filled with gold and jewels in the Rocky Mountain area. His announcement inspired treasure hunters to seek out the chest for over a decade.

“The hunt for the Forrest Fenn treasure was often viewed as a harmless diversion, but in this case it led to substantial damage to important public resources,” said US Attorney Mark Klaassen in a press statement. “The Defendant let his quest for discovery override respect for the law.”

Before Craythorn pled guilty, he was indicted by a federal grand jury on Sept. 16. His plea was accepted by Chief US District Court Judge Scott W. Skavdahl.

Craythorn is scheduled for sentencing on March 17 at the Ewing T. Kerr Federal Court House in Casper, Wyo.

Excavating or trafficking in archeological resources has a financial penalty that can be up to $20,000 and could also mean a year of supervised release, according to the Department of Justice. Meanwhile, injury or depredation of US property has a financial penalty of up to $250,000 and potentially up to 10 years of imprisonment and three years of supervised release.

The Fenn treasure was found in June 2020 by Jack Stuef, a 32-year-old medical student from Michigan, according to Outside magazine.

Fenn passed away in September at the age of 90.

“It was under a canopy of stars in the lush, forested vegetation of the Rocky Mountains and had not moved from the spot where I hid it more than 10 years ago,” Fenn wrote before his passing, on his website Dal Neitzel, which has since been deactivated. “I do not know the person who found it, but the poem in my book led him to the precise spot.”

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