Ex-Treasure Hunter Faking Memory Loss: Judge

Shipwreck explorer Tommy Thompson says he can't remember where gold coins are
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Nov 7, 2016 5:19 PM CST
Ex-Treasure Hunter Faking Memory Loss: Judge
This US Mail ship SS Central America, which sank after sailing into a hurricane in September 1857 in one of the worst maritime disasters in American history; 425 people were killed and thousands of pounds of gold sank to the bottom of the ocean.   (AP Photo/Library of Congress, File)

An ex-deep sea treasure hunter is faking memory problems and intentionally deceiving authorities about the location of missing coins minted from gold from an 1857 shipwreck, a federal judge ruled. Tommy Thompson has been held in contempt of court since last December, reports the AP, when Judge Algenon Marbley found he violated a plea deal by refusing to respond. Thompson also was ordered to pay $1,000 a day until he cooperates. Thompson has said he told everything he knew in depositions last fall and argues he couldn't provide more complete answers, in part, because he suffers from a neurological disorder. He also said he could refresh his memory by reviewing documents held by the US Marshals Service, but that he hadn't been allowed access. Psychiatric evaluations and a September court hearing show Thompson isn't suffering a condition that would prevent him from complying with his plea deal, Marbley said in a Thursday ruling.

A psychiatrist turned up minor memory problems, but said Thompson "routinely made references ... that demonstrated his retention of information from minutes and hours earlier, he remembered things from one day to the next, he recalled aspects of his various cases with great specificity, and he recalled information about his career and business adventures dating back decades." The coins in question were minted from gold taken from the SS America, which sank in a hurricane off South Carolina in 1857. Thompson has said, without details, that the coins were given to a trust in Belize. The feds, who believe the coins are worth millions, doubt Thompson's explanation. A fugitive from Ohio since 2012, Thompson was apprehended in January 2015 along with his longtime female companion near Boca Raton, Fla. Thompson pleaded guilty in April of last year to contempt of court for failing to appear before a federal judge in 2012. His deal requires him to spill about the coins' whereabouts. (More treasure stories.)

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