Federal Judge Orders Arrest of Reclusive Salvager

August 20, 2012 – A reclusive shipwreck salvager, Tommy Thompson, did not appear in court and the federal judge who ordered him to appear has now ordered his arrest.

Thompson had been told to appear in front of US District Judge Edmund Sargus, Jr. in order to respond to contempt charges.

Thompson’s attorney claimed he was “out to sea” and did not know about the hearing.

Thompson is a former Battelle scientist and headed an expedition in the late 1908s to find the SS Central America, a steamer that sunk along the East Coast in 1857 with tons of gold in its hold.

Thompson and his company, Columbus America Discovery group, managed to find the wreck and to recover part of the treasure, bringing up some of the gold in the ship’s hold. The coins and the bullion were displayed in museums and in the media and subsequently were the subject of several lawsuits in dispute of ownership.

Eventually, Thompson moved to Vero Beach, Florida to live with his mother and, according to investors, to recover the rest of the treasure.

The charges, which brought about the order of arrest on failure to appear, are part of six-year lawsuit filed by seamen who worked for Thompson in the late 1980s. They claim they were entitled to a small percentage of the treasure found under their contract with Thompson, which he had not paid them.

Thompson never appeared in federal court in connection with the lawsuit, responding through attorneys that the seamen were compensated and not owed additional compensation. Thompson has claimed that money from some parts of the recovered treasure have been consumed by legal costs incurred in lawsuits.

Last week judge Sargus ordered Thompson to appear or be arrested following a finding by the judge that Thompson was not providing the court with requested information.

Sargus issued a temporary restraining order against Thompson in July, ordering him not to sell 500 gold coins struck from gold bullion recovered from the shipwreck and to tell the court the whereabouts of the coins and the money he’d received from a Columbus Exploration trust.

In a declaration to the court, Thompson said the trust money had long been gone and the coins had been placed in a trust in Belize.

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