PORTLAND, Maine — A federal judge has revoked the rights of treasure hunter Greg Brooks’ company, Sea Hunters, to salvage the sunken S.S. Port Nicholson, a search Brooks of Gorham admitted was prompted by falsified documents indicating that the ship held vast riches.
U.S. District Court Judge George Singal issued an order Wednesday revoking Sea Hunters’ salvage rights, denying such rights to the group Mission Recovery, formed by past investors in Sea Hunters, and directing the British government to pursue allegations of fraud in a separate court action, if it chooses to do so.
Tim Shusta, an attorney representing the British government in that case, said Wednesday afternoon his client was still reviewing the decision.
Singal’s order Wednesday dismisses Sea Hunters’ salvage rights with prejudice, meaning that the company cannot pursue any further salvage of the S.S. Port Nicholson, a World War II freighter sunk by a German submarine about 50 miles northeast of Provincetown, Massachusetts.
Mission Recovery, the order said, could pursue salvage rights to the ship but would have to secure a maritime lien on the shipwreck, which would require it to make independent efforts to salvage the wreck.
The order also directs Brooks to return six pieces of metal recovered from the shipwreck.
Brooks stated in a Dec. 4 affidavit that his contractor, Ed Michaud, provided him with falsified historical documents, which became the basis for bringing in investors to fund missions to recover what they believed to be a valuable cache of platinum and gold, worth up to $3 billion.
Federal investigators are apparently probing allegations that Brooks defrauded investors, though the U.S. Attorney for Maine has not filed formal charges against Brooks. On Dec. 4, 2014, federal investigators searched Brooks’ house. According to discovery documents for that search, filed in court in February, investigators took into evidence 73 separate exhibits, including hard drives, five computers, cellphones and digital media.
In an update to that search warrant filed Feb. 26, the government said it shipped back two boxes of those electronic storage devices to Brooks’ attorney but that it kept certain CDs, DVDs and thumb drives as physical evidence.
In the case, the court has allowed the government to keep its search warrant application under seal in addition to an affidavit from a person named William Johnson until May 28.