Utah man pleads guilty in Yellowstone dig seeking treasure

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — A Utah man has pleaded guilty after authorities said he was caught digging in a Yellowstone National Park cemetery in search of hidden treasure.

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Rodrick Dow Craythorn, 52, of Syracuse, Utah, entered the plea Monday in U.S. District Court in Casper to illegally excavating or trafficking in archaeological resources and to damaging federal property.

He could face up to 12 years in prison and $270,000 in fines when sentenced March 17.

Craythorn was searching for a treasure chest containing coins, gold and other valuables left in the backcountry a decade ago by Santa Fe, New Mexico, art and antiquities dealer Forrest Fenn, who published a book with a poem containing clues to where the treasure could be found.

Craythorn caused more than $1,000 in damage by digging in the Fort Yellowstone Cemetery between Oct. 1, 2019, and May 24, 2020, prosecutors alleged.

“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.

Craythorn's attorney, Christopher Humphrey of Cheyenne, didn't immediately return a phone message Tuesday seeking comment.

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 said before his death the treasure was in Wyoming but neither Stuef nor Fenn's relatives have said where specifically.

Fenn for years hinted the treasure, estimated to be worth at least $1 million, 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.