Bizarre treasure saga ends with large jury verdict

Firm News

A 13-year-old lawsuit was recently concluded with a $19.4 million verdict against treasure hunter Tommy Thompson for defrauding investors of millions in shipwreck riches. The jury awarded $16.2 million to Bricker & Eckler client, receiver Ira Kane, who was represented by trial attorney Quintin Lindsmith. It awarded another $3.2 million to a co-plaintiff, The Dispatch Printing Company.

Thompson oversaw the recovery of $100 million worth of treasure from an 1857 shipwreck, which occurred from 1988 through 1991. But the investors who funded the salvage expedition never saw a penny. Thompson eventually became a fugitive for failing to disclose what he did with the proceeds of the treasure sale, which included 500 gold re-strike coins worth $5,000 apiece. He was captured in 2015 and has remained in prison under a civil contempt order for refusing to disclose the coins' location.

“It is uncertain how much of the [jury] award will ever be seen by investors,” reports The Columbus Dispatch, because Thompson admitted to moving millions in cash into offshore accounts, along with the 500 coins. In an unexpected twist during the trial, Thompson also admitted that he deliberately left a significant amount of treasure at the wreck site in 1991, literally leaving it in trays 8,000 feet below the surface. Receiver Kane recovered that treasure and more in 2014. It is from the receiver’s recovery efforts, not Thompson’s, that the investors will receive a distribution for the first time since they invested over 30 years ago.

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