An ex-military intelligence officer faces up to 40 years in prison on charges of fraud, theft, and money laundering for allegedly siphoning millions of dollars from a fake veteran’s charity, NPR reports. The man, known as Bobby Thompson, was arrested last year in Portland, Oregon after two years on the run.
Thompson, whom authorities say is actually John Donald Cody, is a Harvard-trained lawyer who worked in military intelligence during the 1970s. He claims that the Tampa-based charity is part of a CIA secret operation.
The charity, US Navy Veterans Association, raised over $100 million dollars, but turned out to be a fake. According to the Tampa Bay Times, “Its state chapters were mail drops, its directors nonexistent. It gave little aid to veterans.”
Prosecutors are expected to show that Cody siphoned money from the charity for personal use. The Times reports that Cody used dozens of stolen identities to cover his tracks over the years. Although he now calls himself Bobby Thompson, fingerprints found that he is actually John Cody.
According to the Times, by 1980, Cody was out of the military and running a law firm in Sierra Vista, Arizona. After a client accused him of stealing $100,000, Cody went missing. In 1987, he was placed on the FBI’s Most Wanted list for alleged fraud and for questioning in an espionage investigation.
Cody ended up in Tampa, where he started the charity, Navy Veterans. He even used charity funds to help finance his disguise. IRS documents from 2009 show the charity was buying things like beer, hair dye, and tubes of mustache wax.
Cody alleges that his charity was a United States “intelligence community/White House and Republican Party-manipulated operation,” according to a handwritten court motion. Cody claims he was still working for the CIA as a “nonofficial cover” agent – agents who work in non-governmental jobs and are trained to deny any connection with the CIA.
In the court motion, Cody also blames the Obama Administration for the collapse of Navy Veterans, and demands to know whether the CIA gave him mind-altering drugs.
He ran Navy Veterans from a “roach-infested duplex” in Ybor City, Tampa, yet Cody was also a major Republican donor who had his picture taken, twice, with former President George W. Bush.
In 2010, a now-retired Tampa Bay Times reporter wrote several articles about the charity, exposing it as a fraud. His investigation found that Navy Veterans had donated at least $300,000 to mostly Republican political candidates. Its 85 officers were nonexistent.
Cody was charged by both Florida and Ohio, but, by then, he had vanished. US marshals tracked him to Portland, Oregon last year, where they also found a storage unit containing more than $980,000 in cash.
Cody’s fingerprints were sent to the FBI’s database but could not be matched. A US marshal eventually matched an old FBI “Wanted” photo to the man in jail in Cuyahoga County, Oregon calling himself Bobby Thompson. Fingerprints from Bobby Thompson were matched with fingerprints in Cody’s military records.
It is unknown as to why Cody’s fingerprints were not present in the FBI database. Cody’s lawyer claims “The US State Department had his fingerprint cards removed for a reason,” the Times states.