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Treasure Allegedly Stolen by 18th-Century Scammer Found in Poland

In World
May 15, 2024

Swindling people out of money is nowhere near a new phenomenon. In fact, you might even be known for it centuries later when people find your worldly possessions.

Polish officials just announced that metal detectorists have found a treasure trove of gold and silver coins in central Poland believed to date back to the late 17th and early 18th century. They were found in multiple locations in the Jeleniowskie mountain range and seemingly give credence to a centuries-old legend tied to notorious Polish conman Anthony Jaczewicz.

According to a statement from the Provincial Office for the Protection of Monuments, the coins will be analyzed in-depth later this year to determine their exact origins, but heritage officials and explorers on the ground themselves have suggested their ties to the legendary scammer.

“The coins we recovered may be part of this legendary treasure collected by Jaczewicz,” Sebastian Grabowiec, who headed the exploration group that found the coins, told Polish science organization PAP.

The story goes that the region was in the midst of a black plague epidemic at the time and Jaczewicz sought to profit off the tragedy. He reportedly claimed to have been given the divine gift of healing and established his own hospital of sorts in the Świętokrzyskie Mountains, which include the Jeleniowskie range, in 1708. The “false prophet,” as the government refers to him, drew many people to his home as they were desperate for protection from the plague as it continued to spread. He also purportedly healed those suffering from the disease, all while collecting payment for the faux medical treatment.

It wasn’t a shoddy business run out of a shack in the mountains. He began receiving loads of donations, which allowed him to beef up security at the compound by hiring guards who stole from other people in the area and even sometimes took over nearby properties entirely.

Jaczewicz kept up the ruse and continued to bring in the dough before the law eventually caught up with him, though he eventually escaped from prison and returned to his line of work, “allegedly with the permission of the Pope,” according to the monuments protection office. He was later convicted by a high court in Kraków in 1712 and received a sentence of life in prison.

The coins were handed over to an archaeological museum in the city of Ostrowiec Świętokrzyski. The next step is for researchers to study them to learn more about how they ended up there and who the original owners were.

Whether or not a connection to Jaczewicz is confirmed, it’s a great reminder that no matter how much money you have—or how you got it—you’ll eventually leave it all behind.

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