Tommy Thompson was hired to look for the treasure left inside a 19th-century shipwreck. But when he refused to hand over the treasure, the people who trusted him placed him in jail.
The research scientist spotted a sunken 19th-century steamer in 1988 at the coastal part of South Carolina. It reportedly contained at least $4 million worth of gold coins. One hundred sixty-one investors commissioned him to find the ship for a whopping $12.7 million fee. But after doing his tasks, the investors never found any proceeds. The investors sued him and put him in jail. The former deep-sea treasure hunter just marked his fifth year in prison, yet still tight-lipped about the golden treasures’ whereabouts.
Based on the report from CBS News, Thomson flew all the way to Florida to avoid the lawsuits of the investors in 2012 but failed to evade the law. In 2015, he was discovered hiding in Boca Raton with a female companion. He was initially sentenced to serve two years in prison and required to pay a $250,000 fine. But he continues to stay behind bars five years after because he still refuses to reveal where the 500 pieces of gold coins are.
After claiming that he found the sunken S.S. Central America, Thomson became famous, a ship that sank during the gold rush era in the mid-1800s. Reports claimed that the ship also referred to as the “Ship of Gold,” left the port of Colon in Panama on September 3, 1857, to travel to New York City. The ship reportedly contained 30,000 pounds of gold and 578 passengers.
However, tragedy struck on September 12 when a hurricane rummaged the coastal area of South Carolina. The ship sank, taking every ounce of gold and most passengers in the middle of the ocean. Based on reports, 425 people died due to the sea tragedy.
The expensive cargo that was drowned in the waters was reportedly worth $8 million during that time, but its value inflated to $550 million by the present standards. It was the reason why Thomson was commissioned to find the treasures. Unfortunately, the investors wasted their money on the research scientist because he never disclosed or revealed where the treasures are.
Thompson agreed to enter a plea deal and was sentenced to a fine and two-year service behind bars. As part of the deal, he must provide specific answers to all the questions regarding the treasure. But despite all the pressure, he still refused to cooperate. It prompted Federal Judge Algernon Marbley in contempt of court.
The former treasure hunter is still serving time in a federal prison in Milan, Michigan, while the gold coins are still lying somewhere. Thompson may be saying the truth that he does not know where the treasures were, or he was waiting for the time when the investors moved on from the case so he can go back and enjoy the riches. As of now, the secrets about the Ship of Gold treasures still remain a major mystery.