They told investors they had discovered the wreck of a Russian Imperial Navy cruiser said to be teeming with gold. The only actual wreck is their future lives. South Korea on Wednesday sentenced three executives associated with the Shinil Group to prison after they reeled in $7.6 million from investors in what ended up being a scam. The ship itself is real: The Dmitrii Donskoi was rumored to have been carrying 200 tons of gold, worth roughly $132 billion today, when it sank in 1905.
Yonhap reports the court found their claim to have located the ship "groundless." The sentences range from two to five years in length. The BBC reports the Dmitrii Donskoi's own crew sank their ship after losing a battle against the Japanese. The rumored gold was said to be earmarked to pay the salaries and docking fees associated with the country's Pacific fleet. But experts are skeptical that such an amount would be carried by one ship, and that a ship would have been used at all, as passage by railway would have been an option. (This treasure hunter changed his mind on returning gold.)