Judge shuts down veterans charity in Ohio

No more donations allowed to leave state

CINCINNATI - A Hamilton County judge Monday ordered a charity that claimed tobe collecting donations for veterans to stop doing any morebusiness in Ohio. The judge also allowed the group’sattorneys to quit.

The United States Navy Veterans Association claimed to earn morethan $20 million a year on its tax returns. The I-Team could findonly a few instances of actual aid to veterans, worth only a fewtens of thousands of dollars.

Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray says he suspects thegroup’s founder, a man who calls himself Commander BobbyThompson, diverted donations to fund the campaigns of his favoritepoliticians.

Judge Ethna Cooper briefly questioned attorney Shaun Petersen,whose firm represented the U.S. Navy Vets Association, beforegranting his motion to withdraw from the case. Petersen said histeam of attorneys couldn’t reach anyone from the charityeither.

The group claimed on its website that 66,000 people had joinedits chapters in 41 states. The I-Team couldn’t locate anyoneother than Thompson, and no one showed up in court to speak onbehalf of the charity.

Petersen served as an assistant to his current law partner HelenMacMurray when she ran the consumer division of the attorneygeneral’s office, the very division now investigating thecharity.

He wouldn’t answer questions including how much the U.S.Navy Veterans Association paid his firm for representation or wherethe millions in claimed donations went. He said, “We haveethical obligations as attorneys. We have to respect theattorney-client privilege even after the case is terminated."

Mondday’s court action doesn’t stop the operationfrom collecting funds in other states. Several are considering orhave taken similar legal action.

None have been able to find Thompson.