A Syracuse man has pleaded guilty to illegally digging in the Fort Yellowstone cemetery in a fruitless search for the Forrest Fenn treasure, a challenge triggered by a Santa Fe art dealer and author.
Rodrick Dow Craythorn, 52, admitted Monday to charges of excavating or trafficking in archeological resources and injury or depredation to federal property.
The Utahn is scheduled to be sentenced March 17 at U.S. District Court in Casper, Wyoming. He could face up to 12 years in prison and $270,000 in fines.
The office of Craythorn’s attorney, Christopher Humphrey in Cheyenne, Wyoming, said it had no comment on the case.
Federal prosecutors alleged Craythorn did excavating at the historic cemetery in Yellowstone National Park between October 2019 and March 2020, causing more than $1,000 in damage.
He said he was hunting for treasure hidden by Forrest Fenn of New Mexico.
“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,” Wyoming U.S. Attorney Mark Klaassen said Tuesday.
According to court records, Fenn buried a treasure chest containing gold, rare coins, jewelry and gemstones somewhere in the Rocky Mountains, triggering a 10-year search.
Fenn left clues in a book he wrote, leading treasure hunters to fan out across the West seeking the treasure.
Another treasure hunter found the $1 million-plus hoard elsewhere in Wyoming in June 2020.
Fenn died at age 90 in September, three months after announcing the treasure had been found. A grandson of Fenn confirmed in December the finder was Jonathan “Jack” Stuef, 32, a medical student from Michigan.
Fenn for years hinted the treasure was north of Santa Fe in the Rocky Mountains of either New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming or Montana. Several people seeking the treasure had to be rescued from precarious situations and as many as six died.
Fenn said before his death the treasure was in Wyoming but neither Stuef nor Fenn’s relatives have said where specifically.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.