Thursday, May 5, 2016

Shipwreck Emeralds: Update on A Strange Treasure Story

Remember this post, back in 2013?

I'd forgotten, too.

Briefly summarized:  Two divers get a tip on a shipwreck, including a map and a pottery shard, from a homeless guy. The divers investigate, and over time find hundreds of pounds of emeralds, strewn across the ocean floor. (Plus some other stuff.)

    Now they're rich. Right?

Wrong. The Mel Fisher family gets wind of this incredible discovery, and promptly claims that the treasure is actually that of the Atocha, 'their' shipwreck -- and therefore belongs to them. (The fact that the shipwreck in question is miles from their current work is explained away by saying that the ship must have burst open and scattered her cargo. Which might be true, of course...but miles?!?)

    They take our heros to court -- and lose.

Then the Fishers try another tack: the divers actually salted the shipwreck with emeralds. And they were low-quality emeralds, to boot. So therefore the divers were fraudsters -- and therefore they should pay the Fisher family's lawyers anyways, because...well... they made the family take them to court to prove they (the divers, not the family) were crooks.

Confusing? Yes.

This was compounded by one of the divers, Jay Miscovich, committing suicide in October 2014. (Did he do it because he really was guilty...or he couldn't stand the pressure anymore? There's evidence on both sides.) Then Miscovich's company, JTR Enterprises, was sued by one of the investors. Whatever came of that lawsuit doesn't seem to have hit the news -- I'm guessing it was settled out of court.

The long and complicated version of this strange story, as filed in court, is here. This was the March 2015 version -- and the person filing it definitely thinks that Miscovich and his fellow diver, Steve Elchlepp, are guilty of criminal conspiracy. Or maybe Jay was the crook, and Steve the innocent (sort of) dupe. Who knows. (The story resurfaced last year when one of the lawyers, a former Clinton campaign official, argued that he should not be sanctioned by the court for getting involved in this mess in the first place.)

There are several different opinions about the emeralds. Some experts say they're quite valuable; others (including the expert the Fishers hired) argue that they're not much better than plain old green stones.

    Here are some interesting videos on the story, as well -- including an interview with Miscovich. (The story was profiled on '60 Minutes,' as well as other places, back in 2012.)

I wish I could tell you more, but the information pipeline dried up back in September of last year.  The truth, like the shipwreck, may never completely surface. Miscovich is dead. His company, I'm sure, has been bankrupt for years. And Steve Elchlepp probably will run screaming from the sight of an emerald for the rest of his life. The Fisher family, if they got anything, probably were stuck with bags of gems they'd already announced were near-worthless.

The lawyers, on the other hand, did very well for themselves.

Emerald crystal muzo colombia.jpg
the mysterious emerald -- courtesy of Wikipedia

No comments:

Writer's Lament

A young friend once sent her in-progress fantasy novel to me for review. I read it. Then, feeling virtuous and magnanimous, I all but...