Beyond Oak Island: In treasure hunting it’s not always finders keepers losers weepers

Rick and Marty Lagina in the war room on Oak Island
Rick and Marty Lagina hope to keep a proportion of the value of any treasure they find. Pic credit: History

This week on Beyond Oak Island, the guys discussed the battles and arguments treasure hunters have to endure when they find something truly groundbreaking or valuable.

This episode focuses on the tragic tales where treasure hunting descends into the seedy world of greed and backstabbing. They reveal it’s rarely a simple case of finders keepers, losers weepers, but often a case of a big bully stomping on a hunter who’s done all the work.

Marty Lagina and Craig Tester tell a tale of how they and others invested in the hunting exploits of Bobby Pritchett and his Global Marine Co. off the coast of Florida.

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Working from a tip-off, Pritchett and his team invested a huge amount of cash and effort into locating five old Spanish shipwrecks off the coast of Cape Canaveral.

The ships were loaded with treasure and artifacts that archaeologists estimated were worth between a whopping $300 million and $1.2 billion.

Prichett and his team received all the necessary permits from the state of Florida and signed a contract stating they were entitled to 80-percent of the find’s value. However, things went horribly wrong.

The team unearthed several French artifacts from the scene, which they believe had been looted by the Spanish sailors. However, Florida took it as evidence that Pritchett uncovered a French ship, specifically the La Trinité, which sunk in 1565.

France and Florida claims Pritchett’s treasure

Florida invoked the Sunken Military Craft Act, which protects shipwrecks found in US waters and allowed the French government to claim ownership of the loot.

A court ruled against Pritchett’s claim, and the Florida government is negotiating with the French on how to divvy up the loot between them.

Meanwhile, Pritchett, Craig, and Rick get nothing. The situation bankrupted Pritchett.

The Lagina’s discussed other cases, such as the San Jose shipwreck off the coast of Colombia.

The ship is still lying on the sea bed with a horde worth billions. Legal battles between the Colombians and the Spanish continue to this day. Meanwhile, the hunters who found it get nothing.

They also discussed the Golden Buddha stash, a horde of treasure stolen by the Japanese Imperial Army from the Chinese in 1931 but then buried by the Japanese in the Philippines as the US Sixth Army began occupying the island in 1944.

Part of the loot was found in 1971 by a local; however, he was subsequently tortured by Filipino dictator Ferdinand Marcos into revealing where he found the treasure so he could steal it.

Finally, the Lagina’s brought our attention to the occasional greed of treasure hunters.

They spoke of an occasion in 2015 when a couple of hunters in England found a thousand years old collection of coins. Under English law, they would have been entitled to 50-percent of their find.

However, they wanted all the cash, so they started to sell it privately until they were eventually caught.

English treasure horde from 9th century
A selection of coins and jewelry that greedy treasure hunters tried to steal in England. Pic credit: History

The Lagina’s believe that a fair distribution of the wealth should be agreed upon within laws that stipulate hunters get a fair share of the spoils and the public gets to view the treasure in a museum.

Are they worried that they will face a legal battle if they find something on Oak Island? Yes, but they try to only deal with scrupulous professionals and have so far found the Canadian government to be “tough but fair.”

More from Beyond Oak Island

Follow the links to read about other treasure hunting adventures the guys have embarked on in Beyond Oak Island.

Last week on Beyond Oak Island, the guys sent Gary Drayton on the hunt for some loot stolen in the wild west. He went to Utah to look for the hidden treasure of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

Previously, they sent Matty Blake to Texas to search for hidden silver buried in a lake. The horde is rumored to have been dumped there by 19th-century pirate Jean Laffite.

Beyond Oak Island airs at 10/9c on History.

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