By Mary Wisniewski
(Reuters) - The girlfriend of a former treasure hunter was sentenced to one month in jail on Friday, months after the couple was captured with hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash they had received for loot recovered from a shipwreck, prosecutors said.
Alison Antekeier, 47, and Thomas "Tommy" G. Thompson, 63, both formerly of Columbus, Ohio, were captured in Florida. They have agreed to forfeit $425,380 in cash seized from them when they were caught, prosecutors said.
Antekeier was sentenced at U.S. District Court in Columbus, Ohio. She and Thompson both pleaded guilty to criminal contempt charges.
Thompson's company, Columbus Exploration, confirmed in 1988 that it had found a ship that sank in the 19th Century. It subsequently brought up gold coins and bars worth millions, and members of Thompson's team accused him of failing to pay them.
Antekeier was sentenced to a total of five months, including two months of house arrest and two months credit for time served, according to Assistant U.S. Doug Squires. Thompson will be sentenced on Oct. 29 in Columbus, and could face up to two years in prison, one year of supervised release and a $250,000 fine.
Thompson skipped an August 2012 U.S. District Court hearing to account for the location of gold coins and some funds.
Arrest warrants were issued for both Thompson and Antekeier, his then assistant and now girlfriend, who failed to appear as a witness in the civil case in November 2012, prosecutors said.
Authorities did not track them down until late January when they were found at a Hilton Hotel. They had been living there under assumed names and paying living expenses with cash.
They were later extradited to Ohio, and both pleaded guilty to criminal contempt.
"Thompson and Antekeier were very sophisticated in avoiding capture and had access to nearly unlimited funds, enabling them to stay completely off the radar for years," U.S. Marshal Peter Tobin said in a statement.
More than 400 people drowned in the 1857 wreck of the SS Central America, which was carrying as much as 21 tons of gold from California mines. It sank off the coast of South Carolina.
Thompson and Antekeier also agreed to help authorities identify anyone who assisted them while they were fugitives and to help identify assets in the civil case.
(This story has been corrected in paragraph 5 after prosecutor's office changed sentence to two months of house arrest and two months time served from four months credit for time served)
(Editing by David Gregorio)