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Ohio Treasure Hunter Agrees To Turn Over Gold Coins Worth $2.5 Million

Lon Horwedel
Columbus Dispatch/Associated Press
In this November 1989 file photo, Tommy Thompson holds a $50 pioneer gold piece retrieved earlier in 1989 from the wreck of the gold ship Central America.

Treasure-hunter-turned-fugitive Tommy Thompson, 66, has reached a deal to turn over 500 gold coins.  They are part of the riches he recovered from a shipwreck more than 30 years ago. 

About 100 investors gave Tommy Thompson around $22 million; more than 30 years ago, as he and a salvage crew recovered 3 tons of gold, silver and other valuable treasures from the shipwreck of the S.S. Central America. The items were valued at $100 million.

None of the investors ever saw any of the money.

In a court hearing this week, Thompson agreed to settle a civil lawsuit by handing over 500 gold coins. 

“Frankly, this is in our view his last opportunity, and he sees a very real risk of remaining the rest of his life incarcerated unless he produces,” says attorney Quintin Lindsmith.

Lindsmith says the 500 coins are valued at a total $2.5 million dollars.

Thompson has been in custody since 2015, when he pleaded guilty to criminal contempt. A federal judge ordered Thompson jailed until he agreed to cooperate and release details of the treasure's whereabouts.

Debbie Holmes has worked at WOSU News since 2009. She has hosted All Things Considered, since May 2021. Prior to that she was the host of Morning Edition and a reporter.