A treasure hunter who seized gold worth up to £260million from a shipwreck is facing jail after three years on the run. Tommy Thompson led a 1988 expedition to the SS Central America, the so-called Ship of Gold which sank laden with 21 tons of the precious metal off the Carolina coast in 1857.
But instead of the would-be Indiana Jones sharing the wealth, he allegedly ran off with the profits - leaving scores of angry investors. He reportedly sold much of the haul for around £36million in 2000, but investors claimed the gold was worth up to £260million in a civil court case.
Now Thompson, 62, is facing jail rather than spilling the shipwreck's secrets by testifying in the case - including exactly how much the gold was worth. As the pressure mounted Thompson and his girlfriend-assistant Alison Antekeier, 47, started using fake names and paying only in cash from 2005, prosecutors claim.
Then, in 2012, they became fugitives after failing to appear at a court case brought by the investors. The pair fled their multi-million dollar house in Vero Beach, Florida, after being confronted over unpaid rent by handyman James Kennedy.
He later went into the house and found several $10,000 cash wads hidden in pipes buried underground, the prosecutors claimed.