COLUMBUS, Ohio (WDTN) – A fugitive treasure hunter who is a native of Defiance, Ohio and embroiled in a legal fight over what’s been described as the greatest lost treasure in American history, has been arrested in Florida after more than two years on the lam, authorities said Wednesday.
The U.S. Marshals Service tracked down Tommy Thompson at a hotel in Palm Beach County and arrested him Tuesday, said Brian Babtist, a senior inspector in the agency’s office in Columbus, Ohio, where a federal civil arrest warrant was issued for him in 2012 after he failed to show up to a key court hearing.
Babtist said Thompson was arrested along with his longtime companion, Alison Anteiker, and the two were awaiting a hearing in Florida before they would be extradited to Ohio to appear before the judge who issued a warrant for their arrests.
Thompson made history in 1988 when he found the sunken S.S. Central America, also known as the Ship of Gold. In what was a technological feat at the time, Thompson and his crew brought up thousands of gold bars and coins from the shipwreck. Much of that was later sold to a gold marketing group for about $50 million.
A yearslong legal battle involving insurance companies and investors ensued, a fight that those close to Thompson say was his undoing.
Thompson went into seclusion in 2006, moving into a mansion called Gracewood in Vero Beach, Florida. Six years later, just after the arrest warrant was issued, Thompson vanished.
When the property’s caretakers searched it soon afterward, they found prepaid disposable cellphones and bank wraps for $10,000 scattered about, along with a bank statement in the name of Harvey Thompson showing a $1 million balance, a real estate agent for the property said in court records. Harvey, according to friends, was Thompson’s nickname in college.
Also found was a book called “How to Live Your Life Invisible.” One marked page was titled: “Live your life on a cash-only basis.”
In one of the worst shipping disasters in American history, the S.S. Central America sank about 200 miles off the South Carolina coast in September 1857; 425 people drowned and thousands of pounds of California gold were lost, contributing to an economic panic.