Fugitive treasure hunter arrested in Florida

Reuters News
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Posted: Jan 28, 2015 11:54 AM

By Letitia Stein

TAMPA, Fla (Reuters) - An Ohio man who recovered as much as $400 million in gold from a shipwreck has been arrested in Florida after two years on the run and was scheduled to appear in federal court on Wednesday.

Tommy Thompson was detained on Tuesday night at a Hilton hotel in west Boca Raton, Florida, said Barry Golden, spokesman for the U.S. Marshals Service in the Southern District of Florida.

He was due to appear in federal court in West Palm Beach on Wednesday, Golden said. He is wanted for failing to appear in a federal court in Ohio in 2012.

Thompson was arrested with a woman, Alison Antekeier, who also has an outstanding arrest warrant in Ohio, according to Golden. They appeared to have been living in the hotel for about two years, he said.

Thompson is a defendant in multiple federal and state civil lawsuits that accuse him of bilking investors who put money into his treasure expedition, according to a criminal complaint in the Southern District of Ohio that was unsealed on Wednesday.

Thompson led a 1988 expedition to retrieve gold from the SS Central America, which sank in 1857 with 21 tons of gold in its hold.

According to the criminal complaint, Thompson's company, Columbus Exploration brought up gold coins and bars worth up to $400 million. "Many of the investors have brought suit because they have not been given any profits from the proceeds," the complaint said.

In 2012, federal agents came close to tracking down Thompson in Florida. They searched a house where he had been living and found books about how to live a cash-only existence, the criminal complaint says.

(Writing by Fiona Ortiz; Editing by Doina Chiacu)