By Debbie Gregory.
On September 30th, the trial began for Bobby C. Thompson, founder and former “Commander” of the US Navy Veterans Association (USNVA). Thompson faces charges of theft, fraud and money laundering in connection to his organization.
The USNVA, whose stated mission was to, “Support the U.S. Navy; provide assistance to war veterans, members of the U.S. Armed Forces, and their families,” has been deemed a fraudulent charity. Their reported headquarters in Washington D.C. was really just a rented mail box at a UPS store. Investigators also found that addresses listed for 41 of their 43 supposed chapters were for vacant lots, mail drops or non-existent addresses. And of the 85 listed officers of the association, only one has been proven to exist: USNVA’s very own Retired US Navy Reserve Lieutenant Commander, Bobby Thompson.
However, no service record can be found for Thompson having served in the Navy. But a service record can be confirmed for Thompson’s alias: former Army Captain John Donald Cody. Cody was an Army intelligence officer for eight years in the 1970’s. In the early 1980’s, Cody was out of the military and practicing law at his own firm in Sierra Vista, Arizona. There, Cody was accused of stealing $100,000 from a client. Cody disappeared and was placed on the FBI’s most wanted list in 1987. He was declared “Presumed Dead” by Pinellas County Florida in April of 1997.
But apparently, while on the run from the FBI, Cody survived and changed his name to Thompson. In 2002, Thompson started the USNVA. The organization utilized professional telemarketers to generate over $100 million in donations. The USNVA was listed on the Department of Veterans Affairs website and was given tax exempt status from the Internal Revenue Service as a 501(c) (19) Veterans organization. The USNVA donated over $300,000 in campaign contributions to mostly Republican candidates. Cody (as Thompson) even visited the White House, and has two photographs of himself with former president George W. Bush.
Just when it seemed that this story couldn’t get any more bizarre, Mr. Thompson claimed that his organization was not a fraudulent charity, but instead, part of his cover as a non-official cover CIA agent.
If convicted, Thompson could face a sentence of up to 40 years. But even if the Cleveland, Ohio jury acquits him, Cody would still have to answer to the federal courts for the 26 year old charges that got him on the FBI’s most wanted list.