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Ohio says it proved $100M veterans charity fraud at trial

Nov. 13, 2013 - 01:45PM   |  
Bobby Thompson
The five-week trial over an alleged $100 million, cross-country veterans charity fraud drew to a close Tuesday with defendant Bobby Thompson aka John Donald Cody walking slowly into the courtroom, his shirt unbuttoned to the waist, his hair disheveled and his long, baggy pants bunched around his ankles. (Mark Duncan / AP)
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CLEVELAND — The state has proved its case in a $100 million, cross-country veterans charity fraud, a prosecutor said Wednesday in asking jurors to convict the alleged mastermind.

The defendant identifies himself as 67-year-old Bobby Thompson, but Brad Tammaro, an assistant Ohio attorney general, told jurors in his closing statement that he had never been Bobby Thompson.

"This defendant is John Donald Cody," a Harvard-trained attorney who was drummed out of the Army and later claimed he was a Navy officer, said Tammaro. "He will always be John Donald Cody."

The state's evidence had proved the charges, including identity fraud, Tammaro said.

While on the run as a fugitive, "He changed his appearance and he changed his name," Tammaro said.

The case was headed to the jury after the defense had a chance to make a final argument.

The defendant was charged with looting the United States Navy Veterans Association, a charity he ran from Tampa, Fla. The charity fraudulently registered with the state of Ohio in 2003 and made annual renewals, the prosecutor said. The charges include racketeering, money laundering, theft and identity theft.

Authorities believe he defrauded donors of up to $100 million in 41 states since 2001, including $2 million in Ohio, on the guise of helping Navy veterans. A fraction of the money has been found.

For a second day, the defendant caused a stir, entering the courtroom with his shirt unbuttoned and his hair hanging down his face to his chin. The judge ordered him to button his shirt and suggested combing his hair before the jury entered.

He buttoned up but left his hair looping down his face, prompting stares from jurors when they entered.

The defendant showered politicians, often Republicans, with political donations. The judge rejected a defense request to subpoena testimony from leading Ohio Republicans, including U.S. House Speaker John Boehner.

The defendant was indicted in 2010 and disappeared for nearly two years before being arrested last year in Portland, Ore., where investigators found fake IDs and a suitcase with $980,000 in cash.

Authorities said they traced the name Bobby Thompson to a man who wasn't connected to the charity case and had his identity stolen.

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