Lawyer for ex-treasure hunter says client seriously ill

This undated photo released by the Delaware County Sheriffs Office shows Tommy Thompson. Thompson, a deep-sea treasure hunter charged with contempt of court after refusing to testify about gold he discovered from a historic shipwreck is expected to appear in court Wednesday, April 8, 2015. (AP Photo/Delaware County Sheriffs Office)
This undated photo released by the Delaware County Sheriffs Office shows Tommy Thompson. Thompson, a deep-sea treasure hunter charged with contempt of court after refusing to testify about gold he discovered from a historic shipwreck is expected to appear in court Wednesday, April 8, 2015. (AP Photo/Delaware County Sheriffs Office)

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) – A former deep-sea treasure hunter says he’s too ill to explain to a federal judge why he shouldn’t face new penalties for failing to answer questions about 500 missing gold coins.

Jailed explorer Tommy Thompson needs two to three months to compile information to show Judge Algenon Marbley before he can respond to questions about the gold, Thompson’s attorney said in a Monday court filing.

Attorney Karl Schneider filed a letter and an affidavit by Thompson’s doctor under seal, meaning only the judge can review them. The documents relate to “certain serious medical issues” suffered by Thompson, Schneider said in the filing.

Thompson, 63, went missing three years ago amid demands that he appear in court to answer similar questions. He and his longtime female companion were apprehended in January at a hotel where he was living near Boca Raton, Florida.

After his arrest, Thompson argued unsuccessfully he shouldn’t be returned to Ohio because of an “extreme medical situation.” At the time, Thompson said he had various illnesses, including encephalitis and allergies that would be exacerbated by returning north.

Thompson has been accused of cheating investors since he discovered the S.S. America, known as the Ship of Gold, in 1988. The gold rush-era ship sank in a hurricane off South Carolina in 1857 with thousands of pounds of gold aboard, contributing to an economic panic.

The 161 investors who paid Thompson $12.7 million to find the ship never saw any proceeds. Two sued – a now-deceased investment firm president and the company that once published The Columbus Dispatch newspaper.

Thompson pleaded guilty in April to contempt of court for failing to appear before a federal judge in 2012. Part of his plea deal requires him to answer questions in closed-door sessions about the whereabouts of the gold coins.

The first of those hearings was Oct. 19. A federal prosecutor chastised Thompson afterward, calling his answers evasive and concerning, and scheduled another hearing for Oct. 26. That hearing was delayed.

Thompson was also criticized by investors for “feigned ignorance, convenient lack of recollection, and then outright refusal to answer any more questions,” according to a court filing.

Complicating matters, Thompson is on his third defense attorney after firing the previous two this fall without explanation.

Thompson faces two years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000 stemming from his April plea agreement. He could also be kept behind bars until he answers the latest questions about the coins and other assets.

Andrew Welsh-Huggins can be reached on Twitter at https://twitter.com/awhcolumbus. His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/andrew-welsh-huggins

(Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

WKBN 27 First News provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. No links will be permitted. Please be respectful of the opinions of others. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s