Attorneys, telemarketers abandon charity

CINCINNATI - The firm representing the United States Navy VeteransAssociation will ask a judge Monday to sever its ties to thecharity under fire.

An attorney with MacMurray, Petersen & Shuster, filed amotion to withdraw as legal counsel from the group that claimed tohave 66,000 members but, the attorneys now confirm, its down to onemember: founder Bobby Thompson.

The Navy Vets group registered as a charity in up to 41 statesbut has provided little record of actual service to veteransdespite collecting up to tens of millions of dollars a year indonations much of this decade. Ohio’s Attorney GeneralRichard Cordray suspects Thompson ran the operation by himself andused the money to make donations to mostly Republican candidates inOhio and across the country.

Cordray says, "This appears to have been an elaborate,fraudulent organization trading outrageously on the names of ourveterans."

The spigot to that funding may have shut dramatically, as thetwo telemarketing firms the US Navy Vets group used to raise fundshave stopped doing business with the charity. Its website stilloperates so people still can contribute directly.

Cordray’s office has ordered the charity to stop operatingin the state and is trying to sort the money trail. We foundcampaign finance records totaling $190,000 in personal checksThompson wrote candidates as well as another $100,000 from apolitical action committee he formed.

Thompson hasn’t responded to interview requests and evenhis attorneys say they haven’t been able to reach him forthree weeks. In the court papers, attorney Shaun K. Petersen says,“Defense Counsel’s repeated efforts to advise Defendantof significant recent legal matters have been regularlyignored.”

Petersen is partners with Helen MacMurray, formerly in charge ofthe consumer division of the same Attorney General’s officenow shuttering her client. The I-Team e-mailed and visitedMacMurray’s office and home, as her firm made clear she wasthe sole representative of U.S. Navy Vets. She e-mailed two weeksago to answer our requests with a “no comment”, sayingher client didn’t want to “try the case in themedia.”

The hearing is set for Hamilton County Court of Common PleaseMonday at 1 p.m.

Thompson has disappeared, along with possibly millions ofdollars.