Thanks to Mlive for this article:
A former deep-sea treasure hunter who won’t give up the gold is about to mark his 5th year in federal prison.
Research scientist Tommy Thompson is being held in contempt of court – for an unusually long period – in a federal prison in Milan, Michigan.
He was found in contempt after repeatedly refusing to disclose the whereabouts of 500 missing gold coins found in an historic shipwreck he discovered in 1988.
In 1988, Thompson discovered the S.S. Central America, known as the Ship of Gold, the report said. The gold rush-era ship sank in a hurricane off South Carolina in 1857 with thousands of pounds of gold aboard, contributing to an economic panic.
The normal maximum internment in cases of witnesses refusing to cooperate is 18 months. A federal appeals court ruled last year that the law doesn’t apply to Thompson because he’s also in violation of a plea agreement to assist in recovering the missing treasure, the AP reports.
Thompson’s legal troubles stem from the 161 investors who paid him $12.7 million to find the ship, the report said. They never saw any proceeds and eventually sued. The missing coins are worth $2 million to $4 million.
In 2012, a federal judge ordered Thompson to appear in court to disclose the coins’ whereabouts, the report said. He fled to Florida instead. He was arrested by U.S. marshals in 2015. Thompson pleaded guilty to failure to appear and was sentenced to two years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
In the case of the missing coins, Thompson agreed in April 2015 to a plea deal that requires him to answer questions about the coins’ whereabouts and to assist in finding them, the report said.
Thompson previously said, without providing details, that the coins were turned over to a trust in Belize but he has refused to execute a limited power of attorney to allow that Belizean trust to be examined, as required under the plea deal, the report said.
After refusing several times to comply with the deal, a federal judge found him in contempt of court on Dec. 15, 2015, the report said. In addition to being held in jail, Thompson was ordered to pay a $1,000 daily fine until he complies.
Thompson appeared for a video hearing in October 2020 and again would not disclose the location of the coins, the report said.
“Your honor, I don’t know if we’ve gone over this road before or not, but I don’t know the whereabouts of the gold,” Thompson said. “I feel like I don’t have the keys to my freedom.”
He has now spent more than 1,700 days in prison and owes nearly $1.8 million in fines, the report said.
Contact Tommy Thompson:
Thomas G. Thompson
P.O. Box 1000
Milan, MI 48160