The way gold can change a man has been the subject of movies and legend throughout history. Well the story of American treasure hunter Tommy Thompson is one of those stories.

This week a federal judge ordered Thompson, who has been held in contempt of court since last December, to answer questions about 50 gold coins worth millions that investors believe he still may know the whereabouts, according to the Chicago Tribune.

A pioneer of deep sea treasure hunting, Thompson discovered one of the most valuable shipwrecks in American history. In 1988, he found the S.S. Central America, known as the Ship of Gold, which had sunk in 1857 off the coast of South Carolina with an estimated 30 tons of gold.

Thompson got investors to contribute $12.7 million to recover the treasure. But when he cashed in $50 million worth of gold in 2000, those investors never saw a dime. Last year, after a lengthy legal fight, Thompson was arrested with his girlfriend at a Boca Raton hotel suite, which they had reportedly been rented for two years and paying entirely in cash, according to CBS News.

Meanwhile, two years ago another expedition managed to recover even more gold coins and bars worth around $60 million. And they say there is still much more. But authorities and former investors, including the former owner of the Columbus Dispatch, still want answers from Thompson, who had apparently been living an anonymous life filled with drugs and excess.

Among the clues that investigators discovered was a book on how to live your life on a cash-only basis. They discovered bank wraps for $10,000 and metal pipes they believe were used to bury money underground. Investigators also learned that he had been paying rent on a Vero Beach mansion for $3,000 per month entirely in cash. When he was first arrested in 2008, he was found with nine separate ID cards and in possession of drugs.

Photo credit: Public domain