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Family finds gold valued at $300,000 in Florida

Rick Schmitt and his treasure-hunting family uncovered $300,000 worth of gold believed to be from a 1715 Spanish fleet wreckage.
By VERONICA LINARES, UPI.com   |   Sept. 4, 2013 at 8:10 AM   |   Comments

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Sept. 4 (UPI) -- A treasure-hunting family from Florida literally struck gold off the coast of Fort Pierce.

Rick Schmitt, his wife Lisa and their grown children Hillary and Eric uncovered a 300-year-old treasure of gold coins, gold chains and a gold ring valued at $300,000 only 150 yards offshore.

"This is like the end of a dream," Rick Schmitt said.

The treasure reportedly comes from the wreckage of a convoy of 11 ships that were destroyed in a hurricane off the coast of Florida in 1715 while they were traveling from Havana to Spain.

According to the Sun Sentinel, more than 1,000 people died during the wreckage and mounds of gold, silver and other valuable artifacts were spilled across the ocean floor.

Florida's Treasure Coast was reportedly named after the disaster and the films "The Deep" and "Fool's Gold" are based on the treasure spilled during the wreckage.

Brent Brisben, co-founder of 1715 Fleet -- Queens Jewels LLC, the company that owns the rights to dive on the wreckage site, said the Schmitts were the first to touch the artifacts in 300 years.

"They were there 150 years before the Civil War. It's truly remarkable to be able to bring that back," Brisben added.

The Schmitts have been treasure hunting for years. Their other significant find took place in 2002 when Eric Schmitt, then a Lake Mary High School sophomore, found a $25,000 silver platter minted in Mexico nearly 300 years ago.

In accordance with U.S. and Florida law, the treasure will be taken into custody by the U.S. District Court in South Florida. Later on, the state of Florida will be allowed to keep up to 20 percent of the finding to be displayed in a state-run museum. The remainder of the treasure will be evenly split between Brisben's company and the Schmitt family.

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