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Fenn Treasure Hunter Receives Jail Sentence for Ill-Fated Expedition at Yellowstone Park

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By Tim Binnall

The proverbial bill has come due for an Indiana man who had to be rescued earlier this year while searching for the infamous Fenn Treasure in Yellowstone National Park. David Christensen sparked headlines back in January when his hunt for the cache of riches said to have been hidden somewhere in the American southwest by the eccentric author Forrest Fenn went wildly awry. Specifically, the man found himself stuck in the bottom of a sizeable canyon and required the help of a team of rescue workers to get out of the perilous predicament.

Upon being saved, Christensen was charged with three federal misdemeanors, but was subsequently able to cut a deal with prosecutors. Pleading guilty to the crimes of creating a hazardous condition and illegally traveling off-trail in the park, the treasure hunter learned of his punishment last week. Judge Mark Carman reportedly sentenced the man to a week in jail, ordered him to pay $4,000 to reimburse the cost of his rescue, and banned him from Yellowstone National Park for the next five years.

At the hearing, the judge observed that "we've had a number of cases rising out of the Forrest Fenn treasure" and postulated that Christensen's theory for the location of the horde was rather problematic. "It would have been extremely difficult if not impossible" for Fenn to have hidden the riches where the man thought they were located, Carman opined, due to his "age and health." Be that as it may, the judge ultimately mused "but that's really of no concern to me."

Meanwhile, federal prosecutors took issue with the fact that Christensen initially indicated that his misadventure was merely a hike gone wrong and not a treasure hunt. His reasoning for that bit of obfuscation, that he did not want to imperil the rescuers who may decide to throw caution to the wind and pursue the riches for themselves, apparently did not pass muster with authorities. They also expressed concern that the treasure hunter told a local newspaper after his rescue that he fully intended to return to Yellowstone once his ban had ended.

"We fear that if Mr. Christensen were to come back," Assistant U.S. Attorney Devon Beeny told the court, "we may have to rescue him again." For his part, the treasure hunter has now backed down from that prior vow, telling the judge that "I lost my chance" at the riches and that he will never return to Yellowstone. Despite that promise, Christensen remains "emphatic" that he has solved the riddle of the Forrest Fenn treasure and, strangely enough, even wrote to Vice President Mike Pence to alert him of his accomplishment. Alas, he lamented, "I never got a reply."

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