Ex-con admits swiping museum's $600,000 gold bar

A boy picks up the gold bar in a photo taken before the theft of the rare artifact

From Fox News

Florida prosecutors have obtained a guilty plea in the theft of a $600,000 gold bar that had been recovered from the 1622 shipwreck of a Spanish galleon off Key West.

As part of the plea deal ex-con Richard Johnson, 41, of Rio Landa, Calif., agreed to testify against another man prosecutors say acted as his lookout when the nearly five-pound artifact was swiped from the Mel Fisher Maritime Heritage Museum in Key West in 2010, the Florida Keys News reported Monday.

There appeared little hope of recovering the stolen gold bar. Prosecutors have said in court that it was “likely lost to history.” The gold bar had been locked in a see-through case that allowed visitors to touch and lift it, but not remove it.

Prosecutors said security footage shows Johnson damaging the case, allowing him to steal it.

The gold bar was recovered from the Santa Margarita shipwreck in 1980 by the late Key West shipwreck salvager Mel Fisher and his crew, while searching for the Santa Margarita and Nuestra Senora de Atocha galleons.

The Spanish ships – loaded with gold, silver and jewelry – were two of eight to sink during a 1622 hurricane. According to the museum’s website, a fleet of 28 ships had left Havana bound for Spain, all packed with treasure.

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