Treasure hunter’s fate in limbo, remaining in Florida for now

Reuters News
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Posted: Feb 04, 2015 1:59 PM

By Letitia Stein

(Reuters) - A federal magistrate on Wednesday delayed a hearing for a jailed treasure hunter facing extradition to Ohio to face accusations that he cheated investors out of tens of millions in gold recovered from a shipwreck.

Tommy Thompson, 62, was detained last week at a Hilton hotel in Palm Beach County, where he apparently had been hiding out for two years.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Dave Lee Brannon on Wednesday rescheduled for next week an identity hearing, according to WPTV in West Palm Beach, giving Thompson's local attorney more time to evaluate the case. 

Thompson said he suffers from an overactive immune system and could become sick if sent back to Ohio, the station reported.

Thompson is wanted in Ohio, where a warrant was issued for his arrest in 2012 when he failed to appear in federal court for a civil case. Investors are seeking the location of the gold he recovered from his 1988 treasure hunt.

Nearly $500,000 in cash, hidden in safes inside suitcases, was found in the hotel room where he was taken into custody along with a woman, Alison Antekeir, the U.S. Marshals Service testified, according to WPTV.

According to a criminal complaint, Thompson's company, Columbus Exploration, brought up gold coins and bars worth up to $400 million. However, the treasure was estimated in previous reports at more than $40 million.

Thompson used sonar and robotic technology to find the shipwrecked SS Central America, which held as much as 21 tons of gold from the California mines when it sank in 1857 off the coast of South Carolina. More than 400 people drowned, as the loss helped set off a U.S. banking panic.

(Reporting by Letitia Stein in Tampa; Editing by Bill Trott)