TAMPA, Fla. (Reuters) - After evading authorities for years, a treasure hunter was ordered on Thursday to return to Ohio to face charges of cheating investors out of a fortune in gold recovered from a 19th century shipwreck, federal court records show.
Tommy Thompson, 62, will be extradited from Florida after waiving his right to an identity hearing during an appearance in West Palm Beach federal court.
According to a criminal complaint, Thompson’s company, Columbus Exploration, brought up gold coins and bars worth up to $400 million. However, the treasure was estimated in previous reports at more than $40 million.
Thompson was taken into custody last month at a Hilton hotel in Palm Beach County after apparently hiding there out for two years.
During previous court appearances, Thompson had sought to remain in Florida because of health concerns, local media reported.
A warrant was issued in Ohio for his arrest in 2012, after Thompson did not show up in federal court for a civil case. Investors wanted to know the location of the gold that he recovered from his 1988 treasure hunt.
Using sonar and robotic technology, Thompson found the shipwrecked SS Central America, which held as much as 21 tons of gold from California mines when it sank in 1857 off the coast of South Carolina.
More than 400 people drowned in the sinking and the loss of the gold played a role in setting off a U.S. banking panic.
(Fixes typo in “treasure” in headline)
Reporting by Letitia Stein; Editing by Bill Trott