TREASURE HUNTING IN THE MARQUESAS KEYS On December 2, 2004, two subjects pled guilty and were sentenced before U.S. District Court Judge King in Miami, FL. The individuals were charged with trespassing, disturbing and destroying plants (mangroves), searching for buried treasure, and constructing and installing structures on a National Wildlife Refuge, all in violation of Title 16, USC, Section 668dd(f)(1) and Title 18, USC, Section 2.
They were each ordered to pay a fine of $3,150.00. They were also required to pay restitution in the total amount of $11,974.47. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission received $6,961.09 and the Key Deer national Wildlife Refuge received $5,013.38 from the restitution amounts paid by the subjects. Both agencies were instrumental in obtaining the necessary evidence required to obtain a successful prosecution. Federal prosecution was initiated by the Division of Law Enforcement in Miami, FL.
The incidents took place in December 2003 in the Marquesas Keys located within the Key West National Wildlife Refuge in Monroe County, FL. The Marquesas Keys are part of the National Key Deer Refuge. One of the subjects had been hired by the Amelia Research and Recovery to captain their boat the Polly L, a large lift boat that had proper permits to recover treasure from the wreck of the Spanish galleon Santa Margarita.
The Polly L had been hired by the Mel Fisher family to continue salvage work on the Margarita site. The two subjects had information they had obtained concerning buried treasure located on the Marquesas Key. According to legends, this area was once used as a campsite by early salvagers trying to recover the treasure of the Margarita, the sister ship of the famous galleon Nuestra Senora de Atocha. The individuals also had information that in 1623 or 1624 the Spaniards had stolen $20 million from a salvage effort and buried it on the Marquesas Key.
On or about December 16, 2003, the subjects loaded a skiff headed for the Marquesas Key with dive gear, water pumps, hoses, suction lines, buckets and loot bags to search for buried treasure. While on an island, which was a closed area of the Key West National Wildlife Refuge, the defendants dug a 170' long path through the mangroves, which they lined with boards to facilitate the transport of heavy equipment. They cut dozens of red mangrove roots to create the path. They then dredged the substrate and created a 969 square foot pool about 4' deep. The law enforcement vessel "Point Monroe" responded to a complaint and intercepted the subjects.
The Point Monroe is an 82' vessel that is owned by the National Oceanographic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and crewed by law enforcement personnel from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. The law enforcement personnel aboard the vessel are crossed deputized with the Department of the Interior, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, to enforce the regulations pertaining to the wildlife refuges that lie within the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. An investigation was initiated and statements of evidence obtained by the officers. Without the dedication and assistance from these officers, a successful federal prosecution could not have been accomplished.
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