More than seven years after someone swiped a 17th century gold bar from a museum in Key West, federal prosecutors have icharged two men with stealing the artifact.
Richard Steven Johnson, 41, of Rio Linda, California, and Jarred Alexander Goldman, 32, of Palm Beach Gardens, are charged with conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States and also theft of major artwork.
The crime occurred at about 5:15 p.m. on Aug. 18, 2010, and the Mel Fisher Maritime Heritage Museum, 200 Greene St., has been waiting for the bar’s return ever since.
But the gold bar has not been recovered, prosecutors said Monday.
In this case, the artwork, which prosecutors also call “an object of cultural heritage,” was a gold bar valued at $550,000. It was taken from a case designed to let people hold it but not remove it.
According to the indictment, filed Jan. 23 but kept under seal until Monday, Johnson stole the bar while Goldman acted as a lookout. The two men had driven from West Palm Beach to Key West to commit the crime, and then drove back, according to Benjamin Greenberg, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida.
Johnson was arrested Monday in California and was scheduled to make his initial court appearance in Sacramento on Monday.
Goldman will make his initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Lurana S. Snow, in Key West, at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday.
The conspiracy charge carries up to five years in prison upon conviction while the theft charge carries up to 10 years.
Federal law defines an object of cultural heritage as an item that is over 100 years old and worth more than $5,000.
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.
Gwen Filosa: @KeyWestGwen