A treasure hunter jailed for refusing to reveal where a hidden £1.4 million haul of 500 missing gold coins is about to mark his fifth year behind bars.
Former deep-sea scavenger Tommy Thompson has been held for an unusually long stretch for a charge of contempt of court.
The usual 18-month limit in incarcerations has been ignored as the research scientist has refused to give up the location of his treasure.
The bizarre case dates back to 1857, when the S.S Central America sank off South Carolina with thousands of pounds of gold abroad.
Thompson found the wreck of the Ship of Gold in 1988 – and found the gold too.
The discovery of the shipwreck led to an economic panic, CBS reported, but Thompson has never revealed where the haul was found.
The US government estimates the long-lost treasure is worth anywhere between $2 – $4million (£1.4 million) and wants the diver to reveal where he found the boat.
But Thompson has so far not revealed the location.
Thompson's legal troubles centre around 161 investors who paid $12.7 million for him find the wreck, never saw any proceeds and sued him.
In 2012, a federal judge ordered Thompson to appear in court to disclose the coins' whereabouts.
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But the treasure hunter fled to Florida where he lived with his longtime female companion at a hotel.
He was tracked down by U.S. marshals and arrested in 2015. He pleaded guilty for his failure to appear in court and was sentenced to two years in prison.
He was also slapped with a $250,000 dollar fine, and his sentence has been delayed until the coins' whereabouts are resolved.
Thompson refused several times, and in 2015 a judge found him in contempt of court and ordered him to stay in jail – and pay a $1,000-a-day fine – until he gives up the coins.
In his latest hearing, the deep sea diver told a judge that he actually didn’t know where the coins where.
He said: “I feel like I don't have the keys to my freedom."
The 68-year-old, who owes a staggering $1.8 million in fines, now suffers from chronic fatigue syndrome that has created problems with his short-term memory.
But the government argues that Thompson is refusing to cooperate and that there's no connection between his health and his ability to divulge where the coins are.
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