A federal judge has thrown out a lawsuit brought by the company originally headed by fugitive treasure hunter Tommy Thompson, seeking an injunction and seizure of gold treasure recently recovered from the SS Central America.
Judge Rebecca Beach Smith re-affirmed the salvage rights of Recovery Limited Partnership, a company formed from investors and former workers for Thompson’s company, Columbus America. Recovery Limited had contracted famed deep-sea salvors Odyssey Marine to recover the remaining gold from the SS Central America, after winning salvage rights to the wreck from Thompson and Columbus America.
The SS Central America was loaded with thousands of pounds of gold from the California Gold Rush when is sank in a hurricane off the coast of South Carolina in 1857. The loss of the massive gold cargo sparked a financial panic that consumed the United States.
Thompson raised money from investors in the 1980s, claiming he could find and salvage the gold from the famous wreck, and actually succeeded. However, dozens of lawsuits soon engulfed the company, from insurance companies and others claiming to have title to the lost gold. Most of the $50 million made from the sale of the salvaged gold ended up being paid to lawyers and loan payments.
Investors never saw a return on their millions of dollars, and brought suit against Thompson. Thompson disappeared in 2012 after refusing several summons to appear in court, and remains a fugitive.
This week’s ruling clears the way for the investors, represented by Recovery Limited, to exercise their salvage rights won from Thompson and his company in court.
Clarification: Judge Smith is Chief Judge of the U.S. District Court in East Virginia, where the original salvage case was heard and where Columbus America filed for injunction.
Recovery Limited Partnership and its court-appointed receiver was granted the salvage rights to SS Central America in Ohio court after Thompson fled from federal authorities.