The gold bullion was lost beneath the sea for more than 350 years before being salvaged and displayed at Mel Fisher’s Maritime Heritage Museum in Key West.
For more than 20 years it could be touched and lifted by visitors. Then the $550,000 gold bar vanished, stolen from its secure display in August 2010.
And even though federal authorities announced on Monday they had nabbed the two men responsible for the heist, the 74.85-ounce bar remains missing.
Corey Malcolm, director of archaeology at the museum, hopes the gold bar recovered from a Spanish ship that sank during a 1622 hurricane is still in existence.
The museum’s insurance company had offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to the return of the gold bar.
Surveillance video showed two men in the museum after closing hours on Aug. 18, 2010, breaking into the see-through-case that allowed visitors to touch and lift the gold bar, according to court records.
Federal prosecutors on Monday said Jarred Alexander Goldman, 32, of Palm Beach Gardens, served as a lookout while Richard Steven Johnson, 41, of Rio Linda, Cal., snatched the seventeenth-century relic. But it was not clear how prosecutors identified the men after seven years.
Mel Fisher and his crew recovered the gold bar when they found the Santa Margarita shipwreck off the Florida Keys in 1980. The galleon was one in a fleet of Spanish ships loaded with gold, silver and jewelry that had left Havana bound for Spain.
Goldman and Johnson each face a maximum penalty of 15 years in federal prison if convicted as charged, according to court documents.