They Got ‘Em

A fugitive treasure hunter embroiled in a legal fight over what’s been described as the greatest lost treasure in American history has been arrested in Florida after more than two years on the lam, authorities said Wednesday. (CBS News)

So I lost my office betting pool on this one. Rumors had fugitive Tommy Thompson living in luxury or poverty, some people guessing the Caribbean, others Canada. My guess was a trailer park in Florida. I got Florida right… but boy was I wrong about the trailer park.


In 1988, treasure hunter Thompson discovered the SS Central America; a Gold Rush-era sidewheel steamer lost off the east coast of the United States with “significant” amounts of gold, independently valued by some as worth over $100 million. Tons of gold were recovered in the subsequent salvage effort.

However… not much money ended up in the hands of the original investors, a troubling fact that eventually lead to a brutal 2005 lawsuit. By 2006, Thompson went into seclusion; and in 2012 simply… disappeared.

Thompson was not found in a trailer park. He was found in the Boca Raton Hilton, where nightly rates easily top $200. And he’d been there for two years.

This raises some interesting questions. It appears Thompson did indeed rob his investors and take money for himself. But how? Did he loot in the typical fashion, selling off the gold and stealing the resulting profits? Or, more intriguingly, did he keep some of the gold itself, selling it off piecemeal to fund his luxurious lifestyle? Does he still have a stash?


Further reading: Ship of Gold in the Deep Blue Sea by Gary Kinder


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