Lawyers for a Mel Fisher company claim to have found the man who reportedly sold a treasure map to the finder of a cache of emeralds three years ago.
Son of the famed salvor, Kim Fisher, who owns Motivation Inc., filed legal paperwork Friday stating that his attorneys had found Mike Cunningham -- the man from whom Jay Miscovich claims he bought a $500 treasure map at the Bull and Whistle Bar, 224 Duval St.
Miscovich -- who owns JTR Enterprises with business partner Steve Elchlepp -- said after he found the emeralds scattered across the Gulf of Mexico seafloor near Key West, he bought Cunningham off for $50,000. Notary Stacy Lee Wolf was there for the transaction, Miscovich says, and Motivation claims it has found Wolf, too.
The emeralds launched a bitter legal row over the validity and value of the gems, and now Fisher's Motivation wants Miscovich and Elchlepp's JTR Enterprises to pay its legal fees from a trial overseen by U.S. District Judge James Lawrence King.
A hearing on those fees, called sanctions in legal parlance, is scheduled for March 18, but Fisher and Motivation have asked King to postpone it. Motivation says it needs more time to prepare in light of finding Cunningham and Wolf.
Fisher's Motivation claims Miscovich and JTR perpetuated a fraud and therefore should pay the legal fees.
"The information acquired from Mr. Cunningham and Stacy Lee Wolf supports Motivation's claim of fraud," wrote Fisher's lawyer, Hugh Morgan of Key West. "Moreover, Cunningham's revelations has led to other discoverable evidence which in turn has enlarged the scope of discovery (evidence) needed for the sanctions trial."
Miscovich's JTR attorneys are not convinced that Fisher and Motivation found the right Mike Cunningham, JTR attorney Christy Janssen said Wednesday.
Morgan states in the legal filing that he would be ready for trial by April 22.
Janssen said Miscovich's JTR will argue against postponing the "sanctions" hearing, as he and his lawyers feel they weren't given enough time themselves to prepare for the original trial.
In January, King ruled that former real estate agent and Mel Fisher-investor-turned-salvor Miscovich, partner Elchlepp and their company JTR Enterprises failed to prove they found the 154 pounds of gemstones January 2010 on the bottom of the Gulf some 30 miles off Key West, as they testified in court.
Although JTR can keep the gemstones, King's ruling means neither Miscovich nor Elchlepp can legally claim the gemstones as "court-validated" sunken treasure, which significantly hurts their value.
Fisher and his company, Motivation, allege the emerald find is a ruse by JTR Enterprises to lure and scam wealthy investors, according to court documents.
Miscovich and Elchlepp, in turn, argue that Motivation turned their valid claim into a "circus" and their filings have nothing to do with the sanctions claim.
Fisher's lawyers argued in court that JTR committed fraud and lied about the emeralds' origin after one of the Fisher's emerald experts -- Duval Street-based Emeralds International owner Manuel Marcial -- determined the lot was worth only $50,000 and not the millions Miscovich claimed.
Thus, Motivation wants JTR Enterprises to pay for its legal fees, citing the alleged fraud on Miscovich's part.
Legal fees on both sides are expected to be tens of thousands of dollars or more.