Spanish ingot thieves found; ingot lost forever

Two men who stole a 17th century Spanish gold ingot from the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum in Key West in 2010 were finally found in January and arrested. (Why it took the feds more than seven years to find two monster douchebags filmed by security cameras during the crime remains unexplained.) Richard Johnson and Jarred Goldman were charged with conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States and theft of an object of cultural patrimony. The conspiracy charge carries a maximum sentence of five years, the theft ten.

The men have now been convicted and sentenced to jail time. Johnson, who broke into the display case in broad daylight and walked out casually past security with the priceless object in his pocket was sentenced to serve 63 months (five years and three months). Goldman, who acted as a lookout, was sentenced to 40 months (three years and four months). Considering they could each have gotten 15 years, they both got off easy.

Unfortunately whatever time they end up doing will not be in a prison hulk, oubliette, dungeon or Roman silver mines even though retributive justice cries out for a prolonged period experiencing history’s most foul forms of punishment because of what they did to that ingot. They did not sell it to an unscrupulous collector. Like so many of these two-bit clowns, they wouldn’t have the first idea of how to unload so famous and specific an artifact. They didn’t have the 9th grade level of chemistry knowledge to melt it down and sell the gold for its market value. Instead they cut it up into small pieces and sold snippets in Las Vegas for pennies on the dollar. Obviously when I wrote that I hoped they wouldn’t just melt it for 70 grand worth of meth, I was way overestimating their abilities. Johnson doesn’t even have the decency to be addicted to meth. He blames a risibly expensive pot habit ($700 a week, really?) for driving him to it. That and childhood abuse at the hand of an uncle.

Those are just excuses thrown like spaghetti against the courtroom wall to see if any of them would stick and get him a lighter sentence. The museum offered a $10,000 reward for the return of the ingot. He didn’t have to destroy an irreplaceable historic artifact for loose change, no matter how refined his taste in weed.

Johnson cooperated with the feds and testified against Goldman at his trial, hence his far too generous sentence. He also provided information that allowed authorities to recover one of the snippets he cut off the ingot. It’s about 1/30th of the whole so it’s not much consolation.

Both men must also pay $570,195 in restitution to the museum for the bar, which the museum valued at over $560,000 at the time of the theft. Martinez said he didn’t expect either convict would be able to come up with much money.

Insurance paid the museum about $100,000 for the bar, which was recovered in 1980 by treasure hunter Mel Fisher and his team from a centuries-old shipwreck off the Florida Keys. […]

“That’s the point of view of insurance companies and jewelers,” museum CEO Melissa Kendrick testified Monday as Johnson’s attorney, Chad Piotrowski, argued the bar was worth the rate of gold and no more in an effort to secure a lesser sentence for his client. “As professionals, we don’t see it that way.”

Kendrick said, “The cultural community doesn’t value a Rembrandt for the cost of canvas and the paint.”

8 thoughts on “Spanish ingot thieves found; ingot lost forever

  1. “Why it took the feds more than seven years to find two monster douchebags filmed by security cameras during the crime remains unexplained.”

    Does “feds” = FBI? If so, we know what they’ve been busy with these last few years.

  2. Of course it is morally wrong and a severe criminal offense to blatantly steal from honest and hard working ‘Conquistadores’,..

    ..but may I ask in this context, what the cultural value of a plain ‘ingot’ is supposed to be?

    Bound for Venezuela [notably, himself in search for gold] Federmann gave this description about 1531 on Hispaniola:

    “…To describe the habits of the ‘Naturales’ in this country does not make sense at all, as this region has been conquered and taken into possession by Christians forty years ago, as everyone knows, and they [the ‘Naturales’, obviously] are similar to the ones in Coro as will be described here later on, naked folk of a similar complexion. […] Those Indios that are still alive serve the Christians , but there are not many of them left. Rumors have it that on the entire island, i.e. with all its nation and peoples, of the 500 thousand that were living there when the Christians discovered that island, as mentioned forty years ago, not more that 20 thousand have survived. A large portion died of an illness referred to as ‘Viroles’ [smallpox], some died in combat, but another large portion died of hard labor that the Christians are forcing them to do in the gold mines, and they are not at all usable for that…” :skull:

  3. Is that the ingot in the picture? Long, round cylinder? Certainly not what I would ever have expected. Anyone have an explanation?

  4. Whatever the explanation for the shape, the history of how this was mined and forged is a chapter of reprehensible and repugnant activity of ‘civilized and “Christian” ‘ oppressors. “Yanqui” or Yankee is Spanish for oppressor, just so you know.

  5. Unfortunately, I have not really an explanation for this particular ingot shape. Apart from other reasons, there was ‘transport’, ‘storage’ and -in general- an ingot is not at all a final product. Procedural considerations, therefore, may also have played a role.

    precious metals at first are usually not ‘pure’, it needs to be purified in an economical way, i.e. before the transport. Also, the thin cylindrical shape might have been useful for simple ‘materials testing’: When you hit the ingot against the wall and it breaks, there is most likely something wrong with the gold. –Any other ideas?

  6. Yes, and the Aztecs showed they were so “civilized” by cutting the hearts out of thousands to offer to their blood thirsty gods…

  7. As well as brutally overpowering other tribes in the process of their empire-building, enslaving many unfortunates in the process. This has happened throughout all human cultures and regions, through millennia. This is unfortunately an ongoing process.

    As to these perps, it would be fitting for them to be done in a la Manius Aquillius, but I suppose this might be considered “cruel and unusual punishment” under the U.S. Constitution.

  8. Late to the party,
    I just found this comment on another site by a metal detectorist in my native Vermont. He found an 8 reales Spanish silver coin in the Green Mountains! “Very interesting an 8 Reales Spanish coin in good condition retails out at about $900 most are found in shipwrecks.
    They were manufactured by slicing coin blanks from the end of crudely cast bars of refined bullion. Then clipped to the requested weight, heated, and hand-hammered between crudely engraved dies. The rough surface and irregular circumstance [circumference?] of the blanks prevented well defined strikes. Consequently the legends are frequently missing or only partially shown.
    How that coin got there is a great mystery, not available to the Common Man it had to be taken from a treasure trove of coins…
    Always helpful your amateur archaeologist William”
    Hope you found this helpful.

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