Florida Keys News
Monday, March 24, 2014
Emerald saga turns to legal fees
Fisher asks judge's help in multi-million dollar legal fight

The Mel Fisher treasure salvage company that exposed a multi-million dollar emerald fraud wants a judge to order a prominent corporate lawyer and his firm to explain why they shouldn't pay the legendary Key West treasure family millions in legal fees.

And that fight could take months as it appears both sides are digging in their heels and preparing another legal battle.

Motivation, Inc., the company headed by Mel Fisher's son, Kim Fisher, spent more than a million dollars working for the last four years proving that a cache of emeralds purportedly found by a novice salvage firm JTR Enterprises was a hoax.

Now-deceased salvor Jay Miscovich and his company, JTR, were exposed in a January federal trial after an emerald dealer from Jupiter testified that Miscovich bought the emeralds from him. The company has until April 3 to find a new lawyer, according to court records.

Lead attorney for JTR, John Siracusa of the West Palm Beach firm Janssen Siracusa, has since settled out of court with Fisher, but Fisher has now set his sights on corporate lawyer Bruce Silverstein -- with the prominent corporate firm Young Conaway Stargatt Taylor of Wilmington, Del. -- who Fisher claims was "too heavily invested personally and financially to withdraw, so he joined the conspiracy," according to court records.

Silverstein represented Miscovich before the formation of JTR and Fisher wants him and his firm to pay up. Fisher accuses Silverstein also of threatening witnesses and purposefully prolonging the case in an effort to outspend challengers to the emeralds, according to court records.

Fisher is also going after another well-heeled JTR investor named Paul Sullivan. The Hawaii resident and former deputy campaign manager for President Bill Clinton has also hosted President Barack Obama, according to numerous published reports.

U.S. District Judge K. Michael Moore granted Sullivan more time to prepare a response and acquire a lawyer on Thursday, but Silverstein and his firm filed paperwork stating they have no intention of responding to Fisher's money demand.

Last week, Fisher's lawyers filed a motion asking Moore to force Silverstein and his firm to explain why via a subpoena delivered by U.S. Marshals.

"I think it's a tactical thing on their part," Fisher said. "They're just going to wait and see what the judge does."

Whether anyone will be indicted criminally in the hoax remains to be seen. One of Miscovich's partners, former Navy sailor Steve Elchlepp Jr., received a letter from the Department of Justice notifying him he was under investigation and he invoked his Fifth Amendment right to not incriminate himself when called to testify in the January trial.

A criminal case would be outside the scope of Fisher, who is now more concerned with recuperating the nearly $2 million he's spent on legal fees.

"They could dig their heels in and fight, so who knows?" Fisher said. "I thought they would want to just settle and get it out of the way before they got any bad publicity, but it doesn't sound like that's the case."

alinhardt@keysnews.com

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