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Florida Keys News
Tuesday, January 21, 2014
Fisher asks court to drop treasure appeal
Fraud part of gem saga is over

Lawyers for the Mel Fisher company who exposed a million-dollar emerald treasure fraud moved Monday to drop earlier litigation that's hung up in an appellate court now that the scam has been revealed, according to federal court records.

The attorneys for Motivation, Inc., the treasure salvage company headed by Mel Fisher's son, Kim Fisher, filed an uncontested motion before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta as the four-year saga inches toward resolution.

Whether anyone will be indicted criminally in the hoax remains to be seen.

The motion filed Monday deals with U.S. District Judge James Lawrence King's January 2013 ruling that now-deceased salvor Jay Miscovich and his company, JTR Enterprises, can keep all the emeralds he claimed to find on the seafloor off Key West in 2010.

But King added a catch -- he ruled that JTR failed to prove that the gemstones were found on the seafloor, meaning the emeralds were never "court-validated" sunken treasure, which hurts their value.

Lawyers for JTR appealed that ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals. That appeal has been in limbo for about a year, until last week when U.S. District Judge K. Michael Moore ruled the treasure find a fraud during a three-day hearing over lawyer fees.

Fisher wants JTR to pay his legal bills, and Moore obliged after hearing testimony that exposed the scam.

The emeralds, which turned out to be low-grade stones not worth the millions JTR originally claimed, are now in the custody of the FBI, which is criminally investigating Miscovich's business partner, former Navy sailor Steve Elchlepp Jr., and one of his former attorneys, Bruce Silverstein, among others associated with the company.

Miscovich committed suicide in October in Pennsylvania.

"During closing arguments, JTR's counsel conceded that JTR's alleged find was, in fact, a fraud since the emeralds comprising the treasure were purchased and salted in the Gulf of Mexico and then 'found,'" the motion states. "The case was filed for the purpose of establishing a fraudulent treasure provenance that would increase the value of the emeralds and further the fraud on investors and consumers."

Motivation lawyers argue the JTR appeal from the previous trial that King ruled in January 2013 is thus "entirely without merit."

"JTR's fraudulent admiralty case and the instant fraudulent appeal certainly qualify as frivolous -- at best," the motion states.

JTR attorneys will not oppose the motion, said John Siracusa, lead counsel for JTR.

"I reached out to them (Motivation) and we agreed to dismiss it," Siracusa said, adding that they may, however, contest whether their firm should help pay for Fisher's legal bills.

Fisher is going after a myriad of people involved with JTR, including Elchlepp and Silverstein, in his efforts to recover legal fees.

Fisher said Monday he will be seeking legal bills as the firm should have known Miscovich's claim was a fraud.

"Any reasonable person should have realized it was a fraud early on," Kim Fisher said. "The fraud part is over. Now I'm just trying to get my legal fees back. I'm not making money on the deal. This (civil litigation) is not something I wanted to do, but had to, to protect the (treasure salvage) industry."

alinhardt@keysnews.com

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