I-Team: Scam no more, proceeds from veterans charity scam redirected on Pearl Harbor Day

U.S. Navy Vets cheated donors of millions

CINCINNATI - On a day Americans stop to remember the tragedy at Pearl Harbor, Ohio's attorney general has awarded a group that serves veterans money from another group that ripped them off.

Attorney General Mike DeWine on Wednesday gave the last $6,000 recovered from the U.S. Navy Veterans Association to another group, the Missing in America Project.

The I-Team uncovered in a series of reports a massive scam on the part of the U.S. Navy Veterans that cheated Ohio residents and people across the nation of millions of dollars they thought were going to help veterans. Instead, the money disappeared into the hands of the group's leader, a man who assumed a fake identity under the name "Bobby Thompson". He used part of the proceeds to make political donations, mostly to Republican national and state candidates. The donations were so large he won access to high-level candidates and elected officials, including then-president George W. Bush.

The I-Team found the group's Ohio headquarters based out of a UPS store drop box in downtown Cincinnati, where donations streamed in. After our initial reports, then-Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray seized the box and its proceeds. In all, the attorney general's office recovered more than $76,000, a fraction of what Ohio residents sent the group.

DeWine has been distributing the funds. Eight grants previously went to various veterans' charities around Ohio, including the Joseph House for Homeless Veterans in Cincinnati. Wednesday's grant, in honor of Pearl Harbor Day, goes to a national organization. The Missing in America Project finds and identifies unclaimed cremated remains of American veterans. It then finds them a proper final resting place and pays for the burials.

Federal and state agents are still looking for "Thompson," who was indicted in Ohio more than a year ago. The Ohio attorney general's office did prosecute the group's treasurer Blanca Contreras. She's serving a five-year sentence after her conviction in August on charges including theft, money laundering, tampering with records, and engaging in a pattern of corrupt activities.

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