A Utah man who went digging for buried treasure inside Yellowstone National Park has pleaded guilty to two felonies and may now face years in prison and thousands of dollars in fines, a federal prosecutor in Wyoming announced on Tuesday.
The man, Rodrick Dow Craythorn, 52, pleaded guilty on Monday to causing more than $1,000 worth of damages to federal property as well as excavating or trafficking in archaeological resources while digging in Fort Yellowstone Cemetery, which is in the park, from Oct. 1, 2019, through May 24, 2020, Mark Klaassen, the U.S. attorney in Wyoming, said in a news release.
Mr. Craythorn had been looking for treasure hidden by Forrest Fenn more than a decade ago, Mr. Klaassen said.
“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,” Mr. Klaassen said in the statement. “The defendant let his quest for discovery override respect for the law.”
The crimes to which Mr. Craythorn pleaded guilty carry combined maximum penalties of up to 12 years in prison and $270,000 in fines, according to prosecutors. He is scheduled to be sentenced on March 17.
Christopher Grant Humphrey, a lawyer for Mr. Craythorn, declined to comment on Tuesday.
In a 2010 book, Mr. Fenn, an eccentric art dealer, said he had hidden a bronze chest filled with gold nuggets and jewels. He encouraged people to find it, and many have tried. Thousands of people searched for the treasure, and at least two people died trying to find it.
Mr. Fenn died on Sept. 7 at his home in Santa Fe, N.M., just three months after he said someone had finally found the treasure chest, which held, by his estimate, $2 million worth of gold nuggets, sapphires, diamonds, pre-Columbian artifacts and other riches.
At the time, the person who found the treasure revealed their identity to Mr. Fenn, but remained anonymous to the public. After the discovery was announced, a lawyer in Chicago filed a lawsuit against Mr. Fenn and the anonymous discoverer, and said she had been painstakingly looking for the treasure when someone hacked her cellphone and stole information that led them to the trove.
Last month, Jack Stuef, a 32-year-old medical student from Michigan, publicly identified himself as the person who found the treasure.
In June, Mr. Fenn said on his website that the treasure “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.” He did not give a precise location.
Mr. Fenn had said he had buried the treasure and encouraged the hunt in order to encourage people to “get off their couches.”