Fugitive Treasure Hunter Nabbed in Florida Hotel

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Published: Tuesday, 03 February 2015 19:24

After two years on the lam, fabled treasure hunter Tommy Thompson’s luck ran out. U.S. Marshals caught up with him this week at an upscale West Boca Raton hotel in Florida and arrested him and his long term companion, Alison Anteiker.

“The couple offered no resistance at the time of the arrest and readily admitted to being the targets of the extensive investigation,” the Marshals Service said in a news release. Authorities called Thompson “one of the most intelligent fugitives ever sought by the U.S. Marshals.”


Thompson made history in 1988 when he found the fabulous treasure of the long-lost SS Central America, known as the “Ship of Gold,” which went down in a hurricane 200 miles off the coast of South Carolina in 1857 with the loss of 450 lives. Thousands of pounds of California gold went to the bottom of the sea with it, causing an economic panic in the young United States.

The recovery of the treasure was a technological triumph, and Thompson’s canny marketing sense made it an international sensation. But then things started to unravel.

Decades of legal wrangling in court over ownership of the treasure and complaints by investors in the project that they weren’t paid dogged Thompson for years. The 161 investors who paid Thompson $12.7 million to find the ship never saw returns from the sale, and two of them sued to recover their money.

He went into seclusion in 2006, taking up residence in a mansion called Gracewood in Vero Beach, Florida. Six years later, he failed to show up for a court appearance and a federal warrant was issued for his arrest. At that point, Thompson vanished.

According to an Associated Press report by Amanda Lee Myers, when caretakers for the property searched the mansion, “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, court records said. 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.’”

No criminal charges have been filed against Thompson, only the civil federal warrant for failing to appear in court.