Deep-sea treasure hunter Tommy Thompson pleaded guilty to a charge of criminal contempt in a federal courthouse on Wednesday after refusing to testify about gold he discovered back in 1988.
The 62-year-old went missing three years ago after his presence was demanded in court. His longtime female companion, Alison Antekeier, and him found themselves apprehended by authorities at a hotel in Boca Raton, Florida back in January.
He’s been accused of cheating investors since he discovered the S.S. America, which is known as the Ship of Gold, back in the late ’80s. The gold-rush era ship sank off the coast of South Carolina back in 1857; its sinking came as the result of a hurricane.
When it sank, the vessel was carrying thousands of pounds of gold, which contributed to an economic panic at the time.
As for just how much the treasures aboard were worth, the former oceanic engineer with the Battelle Memorial Institute in Columbus described the haul as “otherworldly in its splendor,” according to an STL Today report which also indicated that much of the treasure was eventually sold to a gold marketing group back in 2000 for roughly $50 million.
Thompson was paid $12.7 million by investors to find the sunken ship. His 161 investors claim that they never saw the proceeds of their find.
As a result of his guilty plea, the government has agreed not to charge him with any additional offenses which arise from the case as long as he is complicit with the terms of the plea deal which establishes a maximum prison sentence of two years in addition to a maximum fine imposed of $250,000.
The plea agreement also calls for the fugitive treasure hunter to forfeit $425,380 which authorities seized upon his arrest back in Florida. He’s also required to help identify and recover lost assets while also identifying others who may have been involved in assisting him while he was on the run from the authorities.
Antekeier also put in a plea of guilty for which she was sentenced to two years in prison and $250,000 in fines, 10TV reported.
Thompson remains in custody in Delaware County jail while he awaits his sentencing. He was previously held in Ohio following his extradition from Florida by U.S. marshals who had tracked him down and arrested him following his disappearance.
Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen found a sunken WWII battleship off the coast of the Philippines back in March.