CINCINNATI - Last week’s arrest warrant in Ohio is just the tip of the iceberg of legal troubles for the man known as Bobby Thompson, who ran the national group called United States Navy Veterans Association. Its Ohio headquarters “operated” out of a UPS drop box in Cincinnati, where donations flowed in from people who thought they were contributing to a veterans’ charity Ohio’s attorney general calls a “sham”.
The I-Team first told you about USNVA and its politically connected leader in June. In follow-up reports, Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray revealed he’d seized the group’s drop boxes to stop the flow of contributions from Ohio residents, which had added up to almost $1.9 million by July. The group reported to the IRS it was earning more than $20 million a year nationally. There’s little evidence of actual help for veterans.
In its first reports, the I-Team showed that its leader, a man who called himself Bobby Thompson, was making hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of donations to politicians, mostly conservative Republicans. Cordray suspects contributions donors intended for veterans actually went to political campaigns.
Thompson’s contributions may have bought him access to state and national representatives and senators. He sent a Christmas card of a photo of himself standing with then-president George W. Bush. Since Ohio and other states began investigations into his national fundraising operation he has disappeared, even to his then-attorneys, based near Columbus. They dropped their representation three weeks ago.
Friday, Cordray along with Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters announced a nationwide arrest warrant, citing identity fraud. The I-Team had raised questions about Thompson’s true identity, interviewing a Cincinnati man with the same name whose address was used to make political contributions in Ohio. The Cincinnati man says he never made any political donations.
Cordray says the man who ran USNVA appears to have stolen the identity of yet another Bobby Thompson. “Our investigators have determined that this individual stole the identity of someone else and used that as the centerpiece of an apparent scam that has continued for seven years and involved tens of millions of dollars.”
Cordray says, “The real Bobby Thompson, whose identity was stolen, including his Social Security number and date of birth, has absolutely no connection to the U.S. Navy Veterans Association. We don’t know who this individual (the one pictured with former President Bush) is yet, but we do know that he is not Bobby Thompson.”
The arrest warrant, issued in Hamilton County, says the person used the false identity to rent the UPS mailbox in Cincinnati in 2003. The other names on documents the group filed with the attorney general’s office when establishing the charity appear to be fictional, investigators say. The state has frozen USNVA’s bank accounts in Ohio, but the group still operates in most of the 41 states where it set up “chapters” and achieved charitable status.
Six other states also are investigating the charity, led by Florida, where the group’s national headquarters seemed to operate out of a house in Tampa. That’s where the man who called himself Bobby Thompson lived before clearing out and disappearing.
Click here to read the arrest warrant.
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