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Forrest Fenn treasure hunter digs himself into a federal sentence

YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK (KIFI) - Chief Federal District Court Judge Scott W. Skavdahl sentenced Rodrick Dow Craythorn, 52, of Syracuse, Utah for excavating and damaging archeological resources in the cemetery of the Fort Yellowstone National Historic Landmark in Yellowstone National Park.

Craythorn received a sentence of six months of imprisonment plus six months of home detention, to be followed by two years of supervised release. He was also ordered to pay $31,566 in restitution.

Case file photo by NPS Investigative Services Branch

“This is the most significant investigation of damage to archaeological resources in Yellowstone National Park’s recent history,” Superintendent Cam Sholly said. “I want to sincerely thank law enforcement officers, special agents, archaeological staff, the Department of Justice District of Wyoming and the U.S. District Court Judge for their outstanding work on this complex case.”

Craythorn was found digging in Fort Yellowstone’s cemetery in late 2019 and early 2020, while looking for a treasure believed to be worth millions.

Rangers and special agents of the National Park Service discovered 17 sites of illegal excavation, including damage to a historic grave.

The cemetery is a multicomponent archeological site with historical human burial and is included in the National Register of Historic Places and more specifically designated on July 31, 2003, as a National Historic Landmark.

A Santa Fe, New Mexico, art dealer named Forrest Fenn buried a chest of gold, silver, and gems in the western United States and then left a clue-filled poem to solve its location.

The investigation into this matter revealed Craythorn had done extensive research on the Forest Fenn treasure and documented his efforts to family and friends.

Craythorn did not find the treasure during his criminal adventure. It was found later in Wyoming by another person.

“Yellowstone is one of the country’s most popular national parks and we must do everything in our power to investigate and prosecute those who damage and destroy its natural and cultural resources. A national park is no place to stage an adult treasure hunt motivated by greed. The harmful actions of Mr. Craythorn, no matter the reason or intent, destroyed valuable archaeological resources that cannot be undone,” Acting United States Attorney Bob Murray said. “I am pleased with the results of this case. The teamwork between Assistant United States Attorney Stephanie Hambrick and the rangers and special agents with our National Park Service resulted in the successful prosecution of a crime that a sentence of imprisonment is rarely imposed. Craythorn deserves time in a federal prison, no matter the length. Yet this case really serves to remind those enjoying our national parks the importance of respecting and preserving it for the whole of America."

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