Fugitive treasure hunter charged with contempt to be arraigned in federal court

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.

A federal prosecutor's office spokeswoman said 62-year-old Tommy Thompson is expected to enter a plea during a hearing Wednesday afternoon in federal court in Columbus. A plea agreement was filed with the court last week along with a criminal information, a document used by prosecutors when a deal has been reached and a defendant agrees to plead guilty.

Thompson went missing three years ago amid demands he appear in court. He and his longtime female companion, Alison Antekeier, were apprehended in January at a hotel where he was living near Boca Raton, Florida. He has been in custody in Ohio for several weeks following his extradition from Florida.

Thompson has faced accusations 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.

Thompson, then an oceanic engineer at Battelle Memorial Institute in Columbus, and his crew brought up thousands of bars and coins, much of them later sold to a gold marketing group in 2000 for about $50 million.

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

The plea agreement includes terms of Thompson's cooperation with both the government and other "interested parties in connection with the matter," Thompson's attorney Ben Dusing said last week.

Antekeier was also charged with criminal contempt last week and was expected to appear in court Wednesday. Her attorney Dennis McNamara has said she has agreed in a plea agreement to admit to the charge.