Yellowstone treasure hunter faces 10 years in prison for digging up graveyard: DOJ

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.

TREASURE HUNTER CAUGHT DIGGING IN YELLOWSTONE CEMETERY IS INDICTED BY FEDERAL GRAND JURY

Craythorn’s formal admission was entered on Monday, Jan. 4, at the U.S. 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.

Rodrick Dow Craythorn, 52, was found digging in the historic Fort Yellowstone Cemetery in search of the Forrest Fenn treasure.
(Yellowstone National Park)

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.

TREASURE STASH WORTH OVER $1 MILLION FOUND IN ROCKY MOUNTAINS AFTER DECADE-LONG SEARCH

“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 U.S. 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 U.S. District Court Judge Scott W. Skavdahl.

WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU FIND TREASURE?

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 U.S. property has a financial penalty of up to $250,000 and potentially up to 10 years of imprisonment and three years of supervised release.

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Forrest Fenn, seen here posing at his Santa Fe home, in 2014, had first devised the idea for a treasure hunt following his cancer diagnosis in the late 1980s.

Forrest Fenn, seen here posing at his Santa Fe home, in 2014, had first devised the idea for a treasure hunt following his cancer diagnosis in the late 1980s.
(Luis Sanchez Saturno/Santa Fe New Mexican via AP)

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.

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“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.”

Fox News’ Michael Bartiromo contributed to this report.