Fugitive treasure hunter nabbed
A treasure hunter locked in a legal battle over one of the greatest undersea hauls in American history was arrested in Florida after more than two years on the lam, authorities said Wednesday.
The U.S. Marshals Service tracked Tommy Thompson to a Hilton hotel in West Boca Raton and arrested him Tuesday, said Brian Babtist, a senior inspector in the agency’s office in Columbus, Ohio, where a federal civil arrest warrant was issued for him in 2012 for failing to show up to a key court hearing.
Authorities didn’t immediately explain how they were finally able to track down Thompson, whom they called “one of the most intelligent fugitives ever sought by the U.S. Marshals.”
Thompson made history in 1988 when he found the sunken S.S. Central America, also known as the Ship of Gold. In what was a technological feat at the time, Thompson and his crew brought up thousands of gold bars and coins from the shipwreck. Much of that was later sold to a gold marketing group for about $50 million.
The 161 investors who paid Thompson $12.7 million to find the ship never saw returns from the sale. Two of them sued — a now-deceased investment firm president and the Dispatch Printing Company, which publishes the Columbus Dispatch newspaper and had invested about $1 million.
That legal battle is ongoing, and those close to Thompson say it was his undoing.
Gil Kirk, who heads a Columbus real estate firm and is a former director of one of Thompson’s companies, told the Associated Press last year that Thompson never cheated anyone. Kirk said proceeds from the 2000 sale of the gold all went to legal fees and bank loans.
Thompson went into seclusion in 2006, moving into a mansion called Gracewood in Vero Beach, Florida. Six years later, after the arrest warrant was issued, Thompson vanished.
When the property’s caretakers searched the mansion, they found prepaid disposable cellphones and bank wraps for $10,000 scattered about, along with a bank statement in the name of Harvey Thompson showing a $1 million balance, court records said. Harvey, according to friends, was Thompson’s nickname in college.
Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.