By Debbie Gregory.
On October 9th, MilitaryConnection.com posted an article about John Donald Cody, the mastermind behind a fake military charity, the US Navy Veterans Association (USNVA). Cody contends that he is retired Navy Lieutenant Commander Bobby Thompson. But fingerprints prove that he is in fact, a former Army Captain, Harvard trained lawyer, and fugitive John Donald Cody. It is only fitting that we now share the conclusion of this bizarre and unfortunate story, a scheme that conned donors out of $100 million.
Cody was accused of committing fraud in 41 states. Ohio took the lead in the case, and indicted Cody in 2010. Cody disappeared for nearly two years, and was arrested last year in Portland, Oregon. The trial began on September 30th.
On November 14th , a jury in Cleveland found Cody guilty of racketeering, theft, money laundering and 12 counts of identity theft. At the end of the trial, Cody arrived in court with an extremely unkempt appearance. Cody’s shirt was unbuttoned, exposing his bare chest and stomach, and his hair was uncombed. Judge Steven Gall ordered him to appear in court clean and groomed for sentencing.
Immediately after the guilty verdict, members of the jury told attorneys on both sides that they were disappointed that Cody hadn’t testified. Defense Attorney Joseph Patituce used their statements to claim that the jury showed bias against his client and requested a new trial. The request was denied.
On December 16th, Cody went before Judge Gall, and his appearance was much more tidy. He complained to the judge about mistreatment and abuse from his jailors. Guards responsible for Cody had already reported that he had been displaying erratic behavior, including smashing his own head against his cell walls to the point where blood was visible.
Judge Gall decided that he had heard enough lies from John Donald Cody. Cody stole money that was intended for Veterans and his crime has negatively impacted legitimate charities. He has been sentenced to 28 years in prison. The Ohio attorney general’s office requested a sentence of 41 years. But Gall said that the length of the sentence reflected the length of the “charade” that Cody perpetrated, in regards to the fake USNVA.
Gall also said that Cody’s crimes had harmed Veterans and had hurt other charities, causing donors to become skeptical. “Everyone’s afraid to give,” Gall said.
After the sentencing, Attorney Patitce again made remarks that he intended to appeal the courts decision, claiming that ineffective legal representation issues stemming from limited preparation time might be a basis for an appeal. Patituce says that his client denies committing the crimes. This supports Cody’s earlier defense that his USNVA ties were a CIA cover.
Of the $100 million, only a small portion of the money was found, including a suitcase that contained fake ID’s and $980,000 cash. Most of the lost money was already spent by USNVA to fund political campaigns, including campaigns for former president Bush and former presidential contenders Mitt Romney, John McCain and Rudolph Giuliani.
A portion of the recovered money is being petitioned to cover the cost of the trial and investigation. More than half of it is being petitioned to go for its originally intended purpose. $650,871.30 will most likely go to Veterans charities.