Tommy Thompson, a treasure hunter who discovered a sunken ship with what NPR called “perhaps the greatest loot in history” onboard, was arrested last week in a Florida hotel for having disappeared with the bounty decades ago.
He is scheduled to appear in court next week in Florida, where authorities captured him earlier this week in a $225-a-night hotel where had had allegedly remained for two years, paying with cash and obviously keeping a low profile.
According to the PalmBeachPost.com, a federal judge granted Tommy Thompson one-week in order to find a lawyer before appearing in court again.
As an oceanic engineer, Thompson made news – and history – when in 1988 his team discovered the 1857 wreck of the SS Central America, which had been filled with gold bars. The US Marshals Service described Thompson as “one of the most intelligent fugitives ever sought,” but all of that came to an end when he was arrested on Tuesday in Boca Raton two years after skipping out on a warrant to appear in an Ohio lawsuit brought by project backers to recover the gold.
According to The Associated Press:
“In a modern-day technological feat, Thompson and his crew brought up thousands of bars and coins, much of them later sold to a gold marketing group in 2000 for about $50 million.
“The 161 investors who paid Thompson $12.7 million to find the ship never saw the proceeds. Two sued — a now-deceased investment firm president and the company that publishes The Columbus Dispatchnewspaper and had invested about $1 million.”
In another article by the AP from 2014 on Thompson while he was still in hiding, Marshals agent Brad Fleming was quoted as saying he believed Thompson “had calculated…an escape plan.”
“I think he’s had that for a long time,” Fleming told the AP.
The ship sank off the coast of antebellum South Carolina, killing 425 passengers. In 1998, Thompson’s team discovered the wreck.
The AP penned: “His joy faded fast. Thirty-nine insurance companies sued Thompson, claiming they had insured the gold in 1857 and it belonged to them. In 1996, Thompson’s company was awarded 92 percent of the treasure and the rest was divided among some of the insurers. Four years later, his company netted $50 million after selling 532 gold bars and thousands of coins to a gold marketing group.”
The investors, and nine crew members of the recovery vessel, filed lawsuits as well.
According to International Business Times:
“[Thompson’s] companion, Alison Antekeier, was also taken into custody for failing to appear in court. ‘The couple offered no resistance at the time of the arrest and readily admitted to being the targets of the extensive investigation,’ the U.S. Marshals Service said in a press release.
“The couple had been staying in a two-person suite at the South Florida Hilton hotel for at least two years under the names ‘Steve’ and ‘Patricia.’ ”
According to the AP, the couple paid cash for everything and took cabs and buses for transportation.