CINCINNATI - A Tampa woman faced a judge in Ohio Wednesday morning on chargesshe helped run a veterans charity the attorney general calls a shamthat took millions of dollars in donations, but never delivered tothe Navy veterans supposed to get the funds.
Agents extradited Blanca Contreras from North Carolina for herarraignment in Cuyahoga County. She’s in jail on a $2 millionbond after pleading not guilty to three felony charges ofaggravated theft, money laundering and engaging in corruptactivity. Judge Kathleen Sutula assigned a public defender torepresent Contreras.
Attorney General Richard Cordray says Contreras continued theoperations of the United States Navy Association after itsprincipal, a man who calls himself Bobby Thompson, disappearedearlier this year. Cordray says Thompson and Contreras stole“more than $1.9 million from Ohio citizens, money that theyshould have either kept for themselves or would have presumablygiven to legal and legitimate veterans organizations in ourstate.”
Thompson remains a fugitive facing the same charges. TheAttorney General’s office says he stole that name from aresident of Washington state but also used the name of an Indianaman, Ronnie D. Brittain, for a decade.
Thompson ran a nationwide group he claimed had more than 60,000members in 41 states. He called it a charity and filed IRS taxreturns that claimed more than $20 million a year. Donors thoughtthey were contributing to veterans but investigators have foundlittle proof the money helped vets.
Instead, Cordray says Thompson diverted the donations to his ownpolitical contributions across the nation. “It's veryaggravating to us to have that money diverted out of Ohio and findit going to an array of corrupt activities including potentiallyfraudulent political contributions to politicalcandidates.”
The organization used a UPS mail drop in downtown Cincinnati asits Ohio headquarters.
Federal agencies and nine states are investigating thecharity.
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38-time Emmy winner Brendan Keefe was named Best Reporter by the Ohio Associated Press in 2011, and Best Photographer in 2012 and 2013. He serves as Anchor and Chief Investigator for 9 On Your Side.
Jason Law joined 9 On Your Side in January 2013 as a investigative reporter with the I-Team.