Treasure Hunter Becomes the Hunted

Posted in: General Bankruptcy

Most people who file for bankruptcy do so because they have reached the decision that that time is right.  The process is voluntary and they are in the driver’s seat.  However, it is possible to be forced into bankruptcy by your creditors.  An involuntary bankruptcy may be brought pursuant to 11 USC § 303.  Three of more entities, each holding a claim against the debtor, must join in the petition.  Their claims must total at least $14,425.00.  One such example of this is modern-day treasure hunter Tommy Thompson.

In the late 1980s, Thompson raised millions to finance an exploration of a U.S. mail steamer that sunk off the coast of North Carolina in 1857.  The investment paid off:  the ship was found along with more than three tons of gold, silver, and treasure estimated to be worth between $100 – $400 million.  Some of the treasure was brought to the surface and sold to the California mint; millions more remain at the bottom of the ocean.

In the years since, investors and crew members have sought their share of the fortune.  Several lawsuits have been filed.  Thompson’s attorney admitted in court this year that no investors have been paid yet.  Thompson has failed to attend court dates for the past seven years.

A group of creditors, including a former attorney for the exploration company, filed an involuntary bankruptcy petition against Thompson’s Columbus Exploration, LLC in March of this year.  One of the large investors in the exploration, the Columbus Dispatch newspaper, has argued that the bankruptcy was orchestrated simply to avoid the appointment of a state receivership to manage the company’s finances.

Thompson has not been seen since last year.  He is allegedly living in Florida or is out at sea, depending on which source you ask.  An Ohio judge has issued an order for his arrest.