Bruno Raphoz, a treasure hunter who lives in France, is suing Forrest Fenn’s estate for $10 million, alleging the late Santa Fe art dealer deprived him of a chest filled with gold by moving the treasure after Raphoz says he solved a riddle that would lead him to the loot.
The lawsuit, filed Monday in U.S. District Court, comes a year after a medical student named Jack Stuef discovered the trove in Wyoming.
In his autobiography, The Thrill of the Chase, Fenn said he buried the chest somewhere in the Rocky Mountains. His book included a poem that contained clues on where the chest was hidden.
Raphoz said he used the clues to determine Fenn’s treasure was in southwestern Colorado. He informed Fenn he solved the puzzle and was on his way to retrieve the chest.
But his plans were derailed by the coronavirus pandemic, which prevented him from traveling. A short time later, Fenn announced his treasure had been found.
“It appeared suspicious to everyone,” Raphoz said in his lawsuit. “Our assumption is that [Forrest] Fenn went to retrieve the chest himself, declared it found publicly and kept the content for himself.”
Fenn died in September at age 90.
Raphoz’s lawsuit also names Stuef, the man who found the treasure, as a defendant, along with Shiloh Old, Fenn’s grandson, and Daniel Barbarisi, a journalist who chronicled the search in his newly released book, Chasing the Thrill: Obsession, Death, and Glory in America’s Most Extraordinary Treasure Hunt.
Barbarisi declined to comment on the lawsuit. The other defendants could not be reached for comment.
People from all over the world came to the Rockies to search for the treasure. At least five people died looking for the chest, and many others became lost in the wilderness, leading to dangerous rescue missions.
Raphoz’s lawsuit isn’t the only court case involving Fenn’s treasure. A number of treasure hunters have sued Fenn, alleging he betrayed them or gave misleading clues.