Feds chase treasure hunter turned fugitive
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — One of the last times anyone ever saw Tommy Thompson, he was walking on the pool deck of a Florida mansion wearing nothing but eye glasses, leather shoes, socks and underwear, his brown hair growing wild.
It was a far cry from the conquering hero who, almost two decades before, docked a ship in Norfolk, Virginia, loaded with what’s been described as the greatest lost treasure in American history — thousands of pounds of gold that sat in the ocean for 131 years after the ship carrying it sank during a hurricane.
On that day in 1989, Thompson couldn’t contain a grin as hundreds cheered his achievement. But his victory was short-lived.
For the past two years, the U.S. Marshals Service has hunted Thompson as a fugitive — wanted for skipping a court date to explain to investors what happened to the riches. The rise and fall of the intrepid explorer is the stuff of storybooks, a tale receiving renewed attention amid a new expedition begun this year to the sunken ship.