COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A deep-sea treasure hunter who spent years as a fugitive has returned to Ohio to face the investors he's accused of bilking out of millions of dollars in gold, according to court documents filed Wednesday.
A judge in Ohio will handle the criminal contempt charge filed against Tommy Thompson after he went missing in the midst of demands he appear in court.
Thompson, 62, and his longtime companion, Alison Antekeier, had been held in Florida, where they were apprehended in January.
Thompson's decision not to fight extradition returns him to the center of long-running civil cases stemming from his historic 1988 underwater find of the S.S. Central America.
Thompson has faced accusations of cheating investors nearly since he discovered the ship, known as the Ship of Gold, which sank in a hurricane off South Carolina in 1857 with thousands of pounds of gold aboard. He went missing in 2012 and was arrested Jan. 27 at a hotel where he was living near Boca Raton.
Thompson previously waived hearings to confirm his identity and discuss his extradition.
Messages were left with attorneys for Thompson and Antekeier. Though Antekeier only faces a civil charge, she was held because she was considered a flight risk.
More than 400 people drowned and tons of gold from the California Gold Rush were lost — contributing to an economic panic — when the S.S. Central America sank.
In a modern-day technological feat, Thompson and his crew brought up thousands of bars and coins, much of them later sold to a gold marketing group in 2000 for about $50 million.
The 161 investors who paid Thompson $12.7 million to find the ship never saw the proceeds. Two sued — a now-deceased investment firm president and the company that publishes The Columbus Dispatch newspaper.
Columbus attorney Rick Robol, who at one time defended Thompson's company, has said there is no proof Thompson stole anything.
The pair had been paying cash for their hotel room, rented under a fake name used by Antekeier, according to U.S. marshals.