COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- A central Ohio publishing company that sued over its lost investment in a deep-sea treasure hunting project fired another salvo in federal court this week, claiming it should be paid $1.7 million in sanctions because an attorney withheld a critical document in the case.
The yearslong legal mess involves several tons of gold recovered from a shipwreck in the late 1980s by Ohio-based salvagers. Columbus Exploration and Recovery used $12.7 million from investors, including $1 million from the Dispatch Printing Co., which publishes The Columbus Dispatch, to find and raise the treasure.
Investors and others who received no returns sued the company and its founder, Tommy Thompson, in 2006, and the cases have dragged on since.
In a filing in federal court on Wednesday, the publisher accused one of Thompson's former attorneys of failing to turn over an original inventory of the salvaged treasure, despite an order by the court.
Thompson has been a fugitive since August 2012 when a federal judge ordered his arrest after he didn't show up at a contempt-of-court hearing.
His companies were turned over to a receiver after he fled. The original inventory documents were found in one of the 36 filing cabinets seized by the receiver earlier this year, even though a former Thompson attorney had claimed the inventory didn't exist, said Steven W. Tigges, one of the attorneys for the Dispatch Printing Co.
The Dispatch company is seeking more than $1.7 million in sanctions, which Tigges said is the amount it has spent on the litigation.
Richard T. Robol, the former Thompson attorney accused of withholding the inventory, said Thursday that it was "sad" the Dispatch lawyers would accuse him of lying after he and other attorneys in the case had made good-faith efforts to locate the document.
Last week, a federal appeals court cleared the way for a trial in the case against Thompson and his business entities filed by seaman who helped him recover the treasure from the wreck of the S.S. Central America off the coast of North Carolina.
Also known as the Ship of Gold, it was in operation for four years during the California gold rush before it sank after sailing directly into a hurricane in September 1857; 425 people were killed and gold worth $1.2 million at the time went down with it.
The gold that Thompson and his crew found and hauled to the surface in 1988 sold for between $50 million and $60 million.