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U.S. marshals turn to billboard alerts in search for fugitive treasure hunter, assistant

| Saturday, April 20, 2013, 6:18 p.m.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The U.S. Marshals Service is using brief alerts on digital billboards in Ohio and Florida to publicize the face of a treasure hunter who is considered a fugitive in a years-long case.

The billboard notices that began flashing photos of Tommy Thompson request that anyone with information on his whereabouts call the marshals, The Columbus Dispatch reported. The billboard photos include Thompson's assistant, Alison Antekeier, also a fugitive, and the charges against the pair.

A federal judge separately ordered the arrests of Thompson and Antekeier last year after they failed to appear in court in Columbus. Authorities believe the pair had been living near Vero Beach, Fla., last year.

The marshals are trying to step up the search using the billboard notices, which run for 5 to 7 seconds between paid advertisements.

The Clear Channel Digital Outdoor Network, which has nearly 1,000 billboards nationwide, displays information on such fugitives as a public service under deals with the Marshals and the FBI. On Friday, billboards in more than a dozen states showed the image of a suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings amid the extensive manhunt, the newspaper said.

Brad Fleming, a deputy marshal, said the billboard alerts for Thompson and Antekeier will stay up as long as authorities are searching for them.

Thompson is wanted for failing to appear in court in one of the lengthy legal fights that followed his 1980s discovery of millions of dollars in gold bars and coins from the SS Central America, a ship that sank in a hurricane off the North Carolina coast in 1857.

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