Man Who Ran Navy Veterans Charity Goes to Jail for Second Largest Charity Fraud in US History

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Dec. 16 2013 5:52 PM

Man Who Ran Navy Veterans Charity Goes to Jail for Second Largest Charity Fraud in US History

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Man who ran Navy veterans charity fraud sentenced to 28 years in prison.

Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

An Ohio judge on Monday sentenced the perpetrator of the second largest charity fraud in US history to 28 years in prison. John Donald Cody, known by the alias Bobby Thompson, was convicted on 23 counts in a scam that spanned some 40 states and raised nearly $100 million from donors under the false pretense that the money was going to help Navy veterans.

Cody disappeared in 2010 after the St. Petersburg Times raised questions about his charity, the U.S. Navy Veterans Association. After a two-year manhunt, federal marshals arrested Cody in Oregon. In November, a jury convicted Cody on charges of “engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, racketeering, money laundering, records tampering, theft and identity theft,” CNN reports.

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Here’s more on the crimes and the verdict from the Cleveland Plain Dealer:

The verdict caps the latest chapter in the long and mysterious saga of a Harvard graduate, former Army intelligence officer and FBI fugitive who used a stolen identity and a fabricated military history to create a charity ostensibly to aid Navy veterans. He schmoozed with the nation’s political elite, and had his photo taken with former President George W. Bush and other Republican luminaries who were the recipients of donations from Thompson. His hired telemarketers collected an estimated $100 million in donations nationwide before his association was exposed as a sham by a St. Petersburg, Fla., newspaper in 2010. The newspaper reported that none of the association’s reported officers existed, state office locations were UPS mailboxes and little money was spent to aid veterans.

At the outset of the trial, ABC News reports, Cody’s attorney “promised the jury that Cody would explain how the charity was part of a secret, CIA-blessed operation in which Cody was supposed to use the money to curry political favor.” The prison sentence comes after a trial, according to ABC News, were Cody offered “virtually no defense,” going so far as to decline to have his lawyer make a closing statement in the trial. Cody addressed the court on Monday, but did not offer an apology to those he swindled, instead maintaining that he had been misidentified since his arrest.

Elliot Hannon is a writer in Washington, D.C. Follow him on Twitter.

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