Treasure hunter reunited with big find

Posted at 4:41 PM, Feb 12, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-13 07:50:20-05

Growing up on the Treasure Coast, Dan Porter always dreamed about the big haul.

"When I was 6 to 8-years-old, I would commonly see these guys bring up chests of coins," he says.

3 years ago Porter, who has been hunting for treasure for 35 years, came across one of his biggest finds.

He and his salvage company discovered 10 ,000 coins submerged off the coast of Panama; it was a multi-million dollar find.

The coins came from the Spanish galleon 'San Jose' which sank in the the Bay of Panama in 1631.

Porter and the Panamanian government agreed that both sides would get a cut; Dan would retain about 100 coins.

As he tried to bring the coins back home this past September, however, the coins were detained by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol.

Porter says Panama essentially tried to go back on their agreement, asking Customs to send the coins back.

"Knowing you're in the right, and them still holding and detaining your personal property - it doesn't feel good," he says.

After 6 months of legal wrangling, federal attorneys ruled that Porter had every right to his treasures.

Thursday night, he got them back.

His attorney Richard Kibbey says this could set a standard for agreements between private companies and other countries.

"The American government  should not pose any bar for that property being brought back into the country," Kibbey says.

Porter, meanwhile, wants to use his discovery to bring things full circle.

"To show children and get the passion instilled at young ages with these type of finds."

Porter says he holds no grudge against Panama, and says there are still about 400,000 more coins left on that ocean site that he'd like to recover.

Now that his case has been resolved, he hopes Panama will let him continue to work to remove those coins because the salt water is causing them to deteriorate.