Ex-treasure hunter is serving five years in jail and counting — over missing gold coins

A former deep-sea treasure hunter who has not disclosed the location of 500 missing gold coins remains in an Ohio jail for the fifth year.

Research scientist Tommy Thompson has been in jail for contempt of court for half a decade – well past the normal maximum limit of 18 months for such cases.

Thompson took on a case for 161 investors who paid him $12.7 million to excavate a sunken ship, the S.S. Central America, which was known as the Ship of Gold and sunk in 1857 during a hurricane off South Carolina.

Thompson took the money but never returned the gold, leading the investors to sue him.


After failing to appear in court in 2012 to disclose the coins’ whereabouts, Thompson lived in Florida in hiding for three years before U.S. marshals tracked him to Boca Raton and arrested him.

Thompson pleaded guilty for his failure to appear and was sentenced to two years in prison and a $250,000 fine, but he had to answer questions in closed-door sessions about the coins, which the government estimated to be worth $2-4 million.

Thompson refused several times, and on Dec. 15, 2015, federal Judge Algenon Marbley found Thompson in contempt of court and ordered him to stay in jail — and pay a $1,000 daily fine — until he responds.


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