Ohio authorities suspect group claiming to raise funds for Navy veterans was led by impostor

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Ohio says impostor led Navy vet fundraising group

CINCINNATI — State and local authorities have issued a nationwide arrest warrant on identity fraud charges for the director of a Florida-based charity purporting to raise money for U.S. Navy veterans, Ohio’s attorney general said Thursday.

Attorney General Richard Cordray told The Associated Press that the man being sought used the false identity of Bobby Thompson as part of a scam that has continued for seven years and involved tens of millions of dollars around the country.

Cordray said the Internal Revenue Service and authorities in other states also have been investigating the man’s U.S. Navy Veterans Association. Cordray said his office worked with Hamilton County prosecutor Joseph Deters on an arrest warrant issued from Cincinnati, where in 2003 the man set up a UPS mailbox to collect donations for the Tampa, Fla.-based association.

“We know he bilked Ohioans out of at least $1.9 million, and we estimate that nationally he collected at least $20 million,” Cordray said.

The association’s website doesn’t show any way to contact the man claiming to be Thompson.

Authorities don’t know the suspect’s real name, but they say the real Thompson wasn’t connected to the association and had his identity, including his Social Security number and date of birth, stolen.

The attorney general said authorities aren’t releasing any information about the real Thompson.

“We feel he’s entitled to his privacy,” Cordray said. “He already has been subjected to harassment from having this guy take his identity.”

Cordray said the suspect also set up a UPS mailbox in Lancaster, in Fairfield County, but authorities have not found any other drop boxes in Ohio.

The man, last seen in the Tampa area, disappeared in June as investigations expanded into the association’s fundraising and spending, Cordray said.

“We are digging in and looking for this individual aggressively, because he committed extensive criminal acts,” Cordray said. “We also want to try to recover as much of the money as possible.”

The attorney general said he believes the association raised money in at least seven states.

The association made a few sporadic contributions to charity, but public records show the man behind it contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to political candidates around the country, Cordray said, adding authorities don’t know the motives for those contributions.

“It’s all an unfolding mystery that we don’t have a handle on yet,” he said.

Cordray’s office has frozen the association’s bank accounts and drop boxes and ordered it to stop operations in Ohio.

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