COLUMBUS, Ohio – A deep-sea treasure hunter who spent years as a fugitive after refusing to testify about gold he discovered in a historic shipwreck had dozens of cellphones, along with prepaid phone cards, photo IDs and devices to alter a caller’s voice, when he was arrested earlier this year, according to a court filing Monday.
Tommy Thompson awaits sentencing in federal court in Columbus on Oct. 2 after pleading guilty to a criminal contempt charge in April.
Thompson, 63, disappeared three years ago amid demands he appear in court. He and his longtime companion, Alison Antekeier, were apprehended in January at a hotel where he was living near Boca Raton, Florida.
Thompson has faced accusations of cheating investors since he discovered the S.S. America, known as the Ship of Gold, in 1988. 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 161 investors who paid Thompson $12.7 million to find the ship never saw any proceeds. Two sued — a now-deceased investment firm president and the company that once published The Columbus Dispatch newspaper.
Items found with Thompson included 43 cellphones, 16 photo IDs, 15 prepaid phone cards, six thumb drives and three voice-changing devices, according to Monday’s filing of a U.S. Marshal’s inventory list.
Thompson also had numerous laptop computers and tablets, a safe, prepaid credit cards, Belize registration papers and $425,380 in cash, the list said.
The filing was part of investors’ attempts to recover some of their costs by examining 75 boxes of property belonging to Thompson.
Some of the information could help locate 500 missing gold coins and other assets, the investors say.
The investors don’t have standing to make the request since they’re not technically victims of Thompson’s crime of contempt of court, Thompson’s attorney, Steve Nolder, said Monday.
Thompson’s plea agreement calls for him to forfeit the $425,380, assist in a 2012 civil case relating to the treasure by helping to identify and recover lost assets, and identify others who may have helped him while he was on the run.
The deal also establishes a maximum prison sentence of two years and a maximum fine of $250,000.