Treasure hunter Tommy Thompson had four suitcases’ worth of gold from the site of the SS Central America shipwreck deposited into a trust account in Belize, according to The Columbus Dispatch.
The Dispatch cited a deposition that included testimony from his longtime assistant and girlfriend Alison Antekeier, who said she herself packed 500 coins made from gold bars pulled up from the Central America site into four suitcases and turned them over to a person who took them to Belize.
That came after Antekeier had put the coins, which were delivered to her between 2003 and 2005, into a safe-deposit box in Jacksonville, Fla., and then moved them to “a secure place in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.,” The Dispatch reports.
The Central America, dubbed the “Ship of Gold,” sank approximately 160 miles off of the coast of South Carolina in September 1857 and was one of the largest documented shipments of gold ever lost at sea.
Thompson’s Columbus-America Discovery Group discovered the wreck in 1987, 7,200 feet below the surface.
In a suit that has been pending since 2006, investors in Thompson’s company sued Thompson for allegedly shutting them out from profits related to the recovery effort. Thompson went on the lam in 2012, skipping various hearings in the case, and a federal judge in Columbus issued a warrant on Aug. 13, 2012, for Thompson's arrest.
In January, U.S. Marshals Service agents arrested Thompson and Antekeier in Palm Beach County, Fla.
While Thompson pleaded guilty to contempt of court in April, the investors suing him want the contempt proceeding to continue so that the coins can be recovered. The Dispatch reports the investors believe the coins, which were valued at between $1 million and $2.5 million in 2008, belong to the company, not Thompson himself.
After pleading guilty to contempt, Thompson said through a statement from his attorney that he hopes to continue his treasure hunting career.
“We hope this plea agreement today is a first step toward ending a decade of lawsuits and refocusing efforts on finding and recovering more deep ocean shipwrecks like the SS Central America,” Benjamin Dusing said.
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