His girlfriend was also presented and pleaded guilty. She was later allowed to go home, while Mr. Thompson was sent back to prison. The couple was arrested two months ago in a hotel after U.S. marshals had been looking for them for more than two years.
In 2012, the two faced charges for declining to appear in court to answer question about a shipwreck treasure they found. Soon after, they fled and led a fugitive-style life until the marshals finally tracked them down and arrested them in January. Marshals found that the two fugitives had with them more than 425,000 in cash.
After hearing them pleading guilty Wednesday, Judge Algenon L. Marbley ordered the woman to be released from jail on Wednesday night, but her boyfriend was ordered back to Delaware County jail, which houses federal defendants.
None of the two provided additional details on their whereabouts in court, except for some brief answers to procedural questions. Both said that they had never undergone therapy for mental illness or addiction, nor did they take prescription drugs in the past 24 hours.
In court, the two were guarded by Mark Stroh from the U.S. Marshals Service who led the search for them during the past couple of years.
Last month, the couple agreed to plead guilty and help investigators recover the remains of the gold found on the shipwreck. Mr. Thomson also agreed to turn over the money found by marshals in the hotel where he and his girlfriend had been living a lavish life for 13 months. He also agreed to tell investigators who helped him while he was on the run.
In return, prosecutors agreed not to charge him with additional criminal offenses such as unjust enrichment or fraud. According to the agreement, he would serve two years in a federal prison, while his girlfriend will serve one.
Yet, Douglas Squires, the Assistant U.S. Attorney, said in court that he highly recommended that the woman serve no day in jail.
“This case started with willful disobedience of a judge’s order to appear in court and ended when the U.S. Marshals Service got their man and woman,”
Mr. Squires stated.
Mr. Thompson, who aged a little, led a secretive life in Florida for more than 13 years. Many people in the courtroom, including investigators involved in the cohort of lawsuits related to his shipwreck treasure, were surprised to finally meet him in person although they knew his story by heart.
Mr. Thomson’s problems with authorities began in 2006, when several former employees sued him because he failed to hand them over their share of the shipwreck treasure as promised. The treasure was recovered from a shipwreck in the late 1980s.
Moreover, investors that funded the treasure hunt also filed several lawsuits over the course of the years. They claim that Mr. Thomson didn’t give them any returns after he had sold the treasure’s gold coins and bars for more than $50 million.
Benjamin G. Dusing, Mr. Thomson’s lawyer, said that the settlement should be a first step toward ending all those lawsuits which lasted nearly a decade.
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