ONE MILLION DOLLAR YARD
An X marked the spot. Investigators found a mysterious map locked in a safe deposit box and started digging in a suburban Palm Beach Gardens back yard.
Three feet down they discovered buried treasure: A million dollars in $10s, $20s, $50s and $100s, stuffed in a dozen Tupperware-type containers and planted like seeds around the yard.
In all, the find has turned out to be one of the largest drug enforcement's cash seizures in county history.
"A million dollars!" said one neighbor who didn't want her name printed. "Well you never would have dreamt it, other than the fact that the man who lived there never worked."
Property records listed the owner of the spacious stucco and stone house in Palm Beach County Estates as Richard T. Schmidt.
Officials from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration said the money was seized as part of an on-going investigation of an extensive marijuana growing and distribution network in Palm Beach County. They would not say whether Schmidt had been charged.
The investigation dubbed "Operation Treasure Hunt," started eight months ago with an anonymous tip. Palm Beach County sheriff's investigators teamed with West Palm Beach Police and DEA, executing search warrants of houses and safe deposit boxes in Palm Beach and Broward counties.
Investigators raided two houses. At a suburban West Palm Beach home, they seized 162 marijuana plants and $72,000 in cash. The full haul of marijuana was worth $3 million.
Dealers were peddling the pot at about $5,000 a pound, officials said.
But that wasn't all. Investigators also found keys to three safe deposit boxes. Inside one of the boxes, they found a crudely drawn map, a rough outline of a house and back yard.
The map led them to Schmidt's tiny home - valued at $176,000 - on an out-of-the-way, one - acre lot. On the front door, a wooden sign announced, 'Gone Fishing.' A rusty beach cruiser bicycle rested nearby. An American flag stretched between two pine trees in the front yard.
Armed with shovels, investigators started digging in nine spots marked on the map, and at each spot they found a 3- to 6- quart Tupperware container, holding cash wrapped in heat-sealed plastic bags.
"This was a major drug operation," said Capt. John Carroll, of the sheriff's narcotics unit. Investigators believe the million-dollar discovery has only scratched the surface of cash reserves generated by the local marijuana industry. They have stopped digging in Schmidt's backyard, but they say they haven't stopped looking for the rest of the cash.
From Palm Beach Post, submitted by Jim Warnke, Boynton Beach, FL.
From mine to market and legal all the way, Sierra Leone revealed it had sold a 110-carat diamond - the biggest yet under a diamond - certifying scheme.
Priceless proof, the war-ravaged nation said, that a crackdown on "blood diamonds" is working.
The thumb-sized $1 million gem was exported, the government said.
It was found in a district once held by rebels but now under government control.
Rebels controlled Sierra Leone's eastern district until a U.N. - led disarmament program in 2001.
From Kennebec Journal, submitted by Gary S. Mangiacopra, Milford, CT.
LIVING ROOM OF GOLD
A gold - rich swath of northeastern Nevada has produced more riches in the past four decades than all but two other mining regions in the world.
One of the mines on the 40-mile-long-Carlin Trend geological formation yielded the 50 millionth troy ounce mined there since 1962 - enough gold to fill a couple of average - sized living rooms.
At the current gold price of about $300 an ounce it would amount to $15 billion.
Only South Africa's Witwaterstrand and Uzbekistan's Muruntau have equaled Nevada in reaching the 50 million-ounce plateau.
The Nevada Mining Association plans to observe the milestone during Nevada Mining Week by presenting Gov. Kenny Guinn with a commemorative 1-ounce gold coin.
Mining is Nevada's No. 2 industry, behind tourism.
In September 1996, when gold sold for $380 per ounce, nearly 13,400 people held mining jobs in Nevada. The figure stood at just above 10,000 last month, according to the Nevada Employment Security Division.
Nevada is currently the world's No. 3 gold producer, behind South Africa and Australia, with half of its output coming from some 20 mines along the Carlin Trend west of Elko.
"Not too bad when the other two are nations and we're just a little state out here," said association president Russ Fields.
From Kennebec Journal, submitted by Gary S. Mangiacopra, Milford, CT.
LORD NELSON GOLD
For nearly 200 years they have lain in a vault: the bloodstained silk coin purse Adm. Horatio Nelson carried to his death at the Battle of Trafalgar; and the letters written by his wife and her rival in love, the legendary Emma Hamilton.
Auctioneers at Sotheby's displayed what Tom Pocock, biographer of Britain's greatest naval hero, has called "the most remarkable Nelsonian archive and collection to be discovered for more than a century."
The collection, including an anchor-shaped diamond brooch, is to be auctioned on Trafalgar Day, named for the 1805 battle in which Nelson's forces destroyed the French fleet and established Britain as the world's naval power.
Martyn Downer, head of jewelry at Sotheby's said the collection belonged to descendants of Alexander Davison, Nelson's close friend and banker, and were only discovered when the Davison family asked him to value the diamond brooch, which bears the initials HN.
"To find this stuff was heart-stopping - I realized I was handling history," he said.
Downer said the purse contained the 21 gold coins that Nelson placed in it on the morning of his death, and would have hung from his clothing. But he said the blood could be anyone's: "By the time Nelson fell, the deck of his ship, the Victory, was awash with blood," he said. The purse is expected to fetch up to $120,000.
Dated 1800, the diamond brooch is believed to have been a gift to Nelson, possibly from a monarch or dignitary. It is expected to sell for $225,000.
Nelson, born in 1798, joined the navy at age 12 and escorted British troops from Canada to fight in the American War of Independence. By age 20 he was a captain.
In 1793, he sailed to the Mediterranean to wage war on the Spanish and the French, losing his right eye in fighting off Corsica.
There were further victories over the French in Egypt and Denmark, before Trafalgar, where Nelson was mortally wounded by a sniper, but survived long enough to learn of the British success.
Nelson was given a state funeral and buried at St. Paul's Cathedral.
From Connecticut Post, submitted by Gary S. Mangiacopra, Milford, CT.
In 1694, England and its allies battled French expansionism for a fifth year. HSM Sussex led a large fleet into the Mediterranean to prosecute the war.
The flagship, a new British warship of 80 guns and 500 men, appears to have carried a small fortune in treasure to buy the loyalty of the Duke of Savoy, a shaky ally.
But a storm hit the flotilla near the Strait of Gibraltar, and the Sussex went down. All but two men died. The treasure - apparently gold and silver coins in theory worth up to $4 billion today - never was recovered.
Three centuries later, entrepreneurs and archaeologists working with the British government say they probably discovered the Sussex in the depths of the Mediterranean. A half-mile down, a robot has examined a large mound rich in cannons, anchors, and solidified masses of artifacts.
Archival and field research by the explorers suggests the remains of the Sussex could yield the richest treasure wreck of modern times.
Historians say the loss of the Sussex and its planned payments appears to have sent the Duke of Savoy into the French camp, altering the war's outcome.
Odyssey Marine Exploration, Inc., of Tampa, Florida leads the project. It is working with the Royal Naval Museum at Portsmouth, England, which advises the British Defense Ministry. The Sussex is a sovereign wreck, an extension of the state under maritime law. But Britain is letting private explorers bear some responsibility and all of the financial risk.
From The Blade, submitted by Jeffrey L. Hauenstein, Findlay, OH.