A former deep-sea treasure hunter is set to mark his fifth year in prison for refusing to release the whereabouts of 500 coins made from gold found in a historic shipwreck.
Tommy Thompson, a research scientist, was not jailed for violating the law. Instead, he faces an unusually long period of contempt of court – exceeding the normal maximum limit of 18 months in prison in cases where witnesses refuse to cooperate.
But nothing is unusual about the 1988 Thompson case, which S.S. Discovered Central America, it is called the ship, it is called the ship of gold. Thousands of pounds of gold were hurled aboard a hurricane from South Carolina in 1857, contributing to economic panic.
Despite an investors’ case and a federal court order, Thomson will not yet cooperate with authorities trying to find those coins, according to court records, federal prosecutors and a judge who insulted Thomson.
“He’s developing a patent for a submarine, but he can’t remember where he plundered it,” Federal Judge Algenen Marble said during the 2017 trial.
Thompson’s legal issues paid him $ 12.7 million to find the ship from 161 investors, saw no return, and finally sued.
In 2012, another federal judge, Thomson, ordered the court to release the location of the coins. Instead, Thompson fled to Florida, where he lived with his longtime girlfriend at a hotel near Boca Raton. U.S. Marshals found him and arrested him in early 2015.
Thompson pleaded guilty to failing to appeal and was sentenced to two years in prison and fined $ 250,000. Thompson’s criminal sentence was delayed until the issue of gold coins was resolved.
In that April 2015 petition agreement Thomson had to answer questions in closed door sessions about the location of the coins, which the government said was worth between 2m and 2m. Importantly, he should also “assist” those interested in finding coins under that agreement.
Thompson has repeatedly denied that, on December 15, 2015, Marble found Thompson guilty of contempt of court and ordered him to remain in prison until he responded – and pay a daily fine of $ 1,000.
In late October of this year, Thompson appeared by video for his latest trial.
“Mr. Thompson, are you ready to answer this question about where the gold is?”
“Yours sincerely, I do not know whether we have gone this road or not, but I do not know where the gold is,” Thompson replied. “I don’t think I have the keys to my freedom.”
With that, Thompson is resettled in his current situation: he is being held in a federal prison in Milan, Michigan, where he now spends more than 1,700 days in prison, paying a fine of nearly $ 1.8 million – and counts. Thompson’s attorney declined to comment.
Thompson, 68, said he suffers from a rare form of chronic fatigue syndrome that has developed short-term memory problems. Without giving details, he had earlier said the coins were exchanged for trust in Belize.
The government argues that Thompson refuses to cooperate and that his illness has nothing to do with his ability to explain where the coins are.
A federal law addresses individuals like Thompson, who are called “review witnesses.” The law states that the limit for imprisonment for contempt of court orders is usually 18 months. But a federal appeals court last year rejected Thompson’s argument that the law applied to him.
Thomson did not refuse to answer questions, the court ruled: refusing to enforce a certain level of attorney to allow the Belizean faith to be investigated, and he also violated the condition of “helping” the parties. .
“This order is not only intended to seek information, but also to seek information for the purposes of recovering these unique assets,” said Andrew Geronimo, director of the Case Western University First Amendment Clinic, a law professor and legal researcher.
Earlier this year, Marbley denied Thomson’s claim that there was a risk of controlling Thomson’s corona virus. Thompson did not present proper evidence of his danger level, noting that he was an air danger.
Investors are still looking for their money as there is no one other than Thomson to enjoy Thomson imprisonment.
“If he had complied with his request agreement and cooperated in finding the missing property, he would now be out of jail,” said attorney Steven Diagus, who filed in court in March.