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Treasure Hunter cheats investors

Tommy G. Thompson has been locked away for over two years in an Ohio jail cell as he still refuses to tell the whereabouts of the treasure trove of coins and gold bars his crew pulled up from the wreck of the SS Central America.

Rare 19th-century coins and gold bars that measured 15 times larger than gold bars cast have been recovered from the wreck. The Chicago Tribune reported about them in 1989, as the success of the exploration was big news at the time. The SS Central America was a steamer that went down with 425 people and what is believed to be three tons of California gold, due to an 1857 hurricane just off South Carolina. Only a handful of people survived the wreck; many of the people on board were carrying gold nuggets, as this was at the height of the California Gold Rush.

SS Central America
SS Central America

Mr. Thompson had collected over 160 investors in his quest to find the ship. He developed deep sea techniques to be able to explore the depths of the sea.  He is called personable and brilliant and was able to easily recruit investors to his cause. He built an underwater robot called Nemo to dive 8,000 feet to the wreck and bring up the treasure.

Only 95% of the wreck has been explored, and it is estimated that there is over $400 million in gold still down on the sea bottom. Odyssey Marine Exploration has been commissioned by the investors to retrieve what is left of the gold on the wreck so that debts can be paid and the investors can collect their reward. Even so, this will take more years of waiting before reaching the end, as Mail Online reported.

Map plotting the track and intensity of the storm according to the Saffir–Simpson hurricane wind scale
Map plotting the track and intensity of the storm according to the Saffir–Simpson hurricane wind scale

In the 2000s two of Thompson’s biggest investors took him to court, filing claims that he sold most of the gold and kept the profits. A portion of the gold was sold in the sum of $50 million, but no one has seen a cent of it except Mr. Thompson himself. A two-year manhunt followed after he refused to appear before a federal judge, ending with his capture in 2015 in Florida.

Read another story from us: A giant ruby attracts thousands of wannabe treasure hunters

At present, he is claiming to have forgotten where the gold is, other than it may be in Belize. He is fined with $1,000 a day and owes more than $350,000. A federal judge has deemed he is lying about being forgetful and it appears to be playing a waiting game until Mr. Thompson finally reveals what he did with the coins and the gold bars.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for The Vintage News