Florida family makes $300,000 sunken treasure find

HICKSVILLE, NY- MARCH 9:  An 8 Reales Silver coin dated 1783 from The Franklin Mint's collection of treasure recovered from the sunken spanish ship 'El Cazador' is seen among other artifacts from the ship in a vault at The Franklin Mint offices on March 9, 2007 in Hicksville, New York.  (Photo by Scott Gries/Getty Images for The Franklin Mint)
An 8 Reales silver coin dated 1783, now in the Franklin Mint’s collection, was part of the treasure recovered from the sunken Spanish ship El Cazador. Credit: Getty Images

A Florida family who spends their time together hunting for treasure struck it rich over the weekend, hauling up an estimated $300,000 worth of gold from an historic wreckage in the Atlantic Ocean.

“What’s really neat about them is they are a family, they spend family time together out there, and the most amazing part about them is they always believed this day would come,” said Brent Brisben, whose company 1715 Fleet — Queens Jewels LLC owns the rights to the wreckage.

Brisben said Rick and Lisa Schmitt, and their grown children Hillary and Eric, found gold chains and coins from the wreckage of a convoy of 11 ships that went down in a hurricane off the coast of Florida in 1715 en route from Cuba to Spain.

The ships’ manifests indicate that about $400 million worth of treasure was on board, of which $175 million has been recovered, Brisben said.

His company bought the rights to the wreck site from the heirs of legendary treasure hunter Mel Fisher in 2010 and allows others, including the Schmitts, to search under subcontracting agreements.

Brisben said the Schmitts, who live in Sanford, Fla., have been searching for treasure for years. Eric Schmitt, who made the latest discovery, also found a silver platter worth about $25,000 in 2002 when he was a high school sophomore.

Under U.S. and Florida law, the treasure will be placed into the custody of the U.S. District Court in South Florida. The state will be allowed to take possession of up to 20 percent of the find for display in a state museum. The remainder will be split evenly between Brisben’s company and the Schmitt family, he said.

Brisben said the story of the 1715 wreckage was used as a basis for the 1977 film “The Deep” and the 2008 film “Fool’s Gold.”


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