A man who dug up a cemetery in Yellowstone National Park in search of the Forest Fenn treasure was sentenced to six months in prison, six months home detention and $31,566 in restitution on Wednesday.
Rodrick Craythorn, 52, of Syracuse, Utah, was sentenced by Judge Scott Skavdahl in Federal District Court for crimes he committed in late 2019 and early 2020.
“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,” Acting U.S. Attorney Bob Murray said. “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.”
According to a Yellowstone spokesperson, Craythorn was associated with 17 different sites of illegal excavation and damage to a historic grave inside the Fort Yellowstone cemetery that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and a National Historic Landmark.
The U.S. Army was first dispatched to protect the Park in 1886 and at least 54 people were buried in the cemetery between 1888 and 1916, mostly Army employees and military personnel.
“This is the most significant investigation of damage to archaeological resources in Yellowstone National Park’s recent history,” said Park Superintendent Cam Sholly.
Yellowstone said an investigation into the matter revealed that Craythorn had done extensive research on the Fenn treasure and documented his efforts to family and friends. He said he did not find the treasure during his criminal adventure.
Thousands of people participated in Fenn’s search and a few died looking for the spoils. In the spring, an Indiana man was sentenced to seven days in jail and more than $4,000 in restitution for trespassing into the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River, convinced Fenn had hid the treasure there when he was 79.
In June 2020, Fenn announced the treasure had been found by an individual from “back East,” but all other identifying details were kept confidential. This hasn’t stopped some treasure hunters from continuing to commiserate about where they think the treasure is.
“Today’s action by the DOJ sends a clear message that these types of transgressions will be aggressively investigated and prosecuted,” Yellowstone National Park Chief Ranger Sarah Davis said.