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Was he a lookout in the theft of a $550,000 gold bar? That's now a question for jurors

The 17th century gold bar stolen from a Key West museum in 2010 is valued at $550,000.
The 17th century gold bar stolen from a Key West museum in 2010 is valued at $550,000. Mel Fisher Maritime Heritage Museum

The trial of the alleged accomplice in the 2010 theft of a 17th century gold bar from a Key West museum opens this week in federal court.

Jarred Goldman is on trial for the theft that his alleged cohort has already admitted to in exchange for a lighter sentence.

A jury was seated Tuesday and opening statements are set to begin at 1:45 p.m. at U.S. District Court in Key West.

Goldman is accused of acting as the lookout at 5:15 p.m. Aug. 18, 2010, so Richard Steven Johnson could break into the display case at the Mel Fisher Maritime Heritage Museum, 200 Greene St., and grab the gold bar, which is worth an estimated $550,000.

Johnson is set for sentencing at 10 a.m. July 23. He is not on the prosecution's witness list, however. Six people are, including an archaeologist that works at the museum.

johnson, richard steven
Richard Steven Johnson was captured on security video at the museum the day the gold bar was stolen. Mel Fisher Maritime Heritage Museum

Both were arrested in January and charged with conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States and also theft of major artwork. The charges carry up to 15 years in prison upon conviction.

Federal law defines an object of cultural heritage as an item that is over 100 years old and worth more than $5,000.

Initially, prosecutors said the bar hadn't been recovered but pre-trial motions said a portion of the bar had been found and will be the focus of testimony. Judge Jose Martinez is presiding over the case.

The bar was recovered from the Santa Margarita shipwreck in 1980 by the late Key West shipwreck treasure hunter Mel Fisher and his crew while they searched for the Margarita and Nuestra Señora de Atocha galleons.

It had been on display in the museum for more than 20 years in a case designed so that visitors could reach in and lift the bar.

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