- A man going by Bobby Thompson, but identified as John Donald Cody, allegedly ran a fraudulent charity, collecting millions that authorities said did not make it to the veterans it was intended to benefit.
- The accused instead said he was working under a "nonofficial" cover for the CIA and called the charity "a U.S. intelligence community/White House and Republican Party manipulated operation."
- The fraudulent charity was identified by a Tampa Bay Times reporter in 2010, who Thompson/Cody called a "pro-Obama, anti-Bush domestic and foreign policy, Democratic Party adherent."
- Thompson/Cody claimed the political donations he made to figures in the Republican party were legal.
CLEVELAND (TheBlaze/AP) -- A onetime fugitive charged in a $100 million multistate fraud under the guise of helping Navy veterans went on trial Monday after losing a bid to subpoena U.S. House Speaker John Boehner and other leading Ohio politicians.
A judge in Cleveland rejected the renewed defense request to subpoena the politicians in an effort trying to show the defendant's political donations were legal.
The defendant calls himself Bobby Thompson, but authorities have identified him as lawyer and former military intelligence officer John Donald Cody.
Bobby Thompson, left, shows his defense attorney Joseph Patituce a paper during court proceedings Monday, Sept. 30, 2013, in Cleveland. Thompson, one-time fugitive heads to trial on charges of masterminding a $100 million multi-state fraud under the guise of helping Navy veterans. The defendant calls himself Bobby Thompson, but authorities identified him as 67-year-old Harvard-trained lawyer and former military intelligence officer John Donald Cody. (Photo: AP)
Thompson, 67, is charged with defrauding people who donated to a reputed charity for Navy veterans, the United States Navy Veterans Association based in Tampa, Fla.
The alleged fraud spanned 41 states, including up to $2 million in Ohio. Authorities said little, if any, of the money collected by the charity was used to benefit veterans.
The defendant showered politicians, many of them Republicans, with political donations.
His attorney, Joseph Patituce, said subpoenas for testimony by Boehner, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, two DeWine predecessors and other leading Ohio political figures, mostly Republicans, were needed to prove the charity's political contributions were legal.
But Brad Tammaro, an assistant attorney general handling the trial, said where the money went was unrelated to the charges of money laundering and theft.
Patituce hinted at a defense focused on the CIA and government secrets, but Tammaro said that if "by some fantasy" there was such government involvement, it did not exonerate the defendant.
Patituce said he didn't want to tip the defense strategy but said it would involve the CIA and a secretive operation decades ago in Arizona.
The Tampa Bay Times, more specifically, reported Thompson saying in court filings that he worked under a "nonofficial cover" for the CIA and that the charity he ran was "a U.S. intelligence community/White House and Republican Party manipulated operation." He also said, according to the Times, that the CIA had given him mind-altering drugs.
Here's more background Times about the case:
By 1980, Cody had left the military and was running a small law firm in Sierra Vista, Ariz.
When a client accused him of stealing $100,000, Cody disappeared. His orange Corvette was found, painted blue, at the Phoenix airport. The keys were in the ignition.
In 1987, the FBI placed Cody on its Most Wanted list for alleged fraud as well as for questioning in an espionage investigation.
While agents were searching for Cody, he moved to Tampa and started Navy Veterans.
Using professional telemarketers, the charity brought in more than $20 million a year at its peak, ostensibly to send care packages to troops overseas.
But receipts submitted by Navy Veterans for an IRS audit in 2009 show the charity was spending money on things like Natural Ice beer, two window air-conditioning units, Just for Men hair dye and tubes of Pinaud's mustache wax.
Thompson, who got hair implants while in Tampa, wore a handlebar mustache while posing as the Navy Veterans' "Commander."
Patituce, Thompson's lawyer, said that Navy Veterans passed four IRS audits and that the charity only kept about 10 percent of the over $100 million raised nationwide.
In court filings, Thompson alleged that Tampa Bay Times reporter Jeff Testerman, a man he called a "pro-Obama, anti-Bush domestic and foreign policy, Democratic Party adherent," took down the charity. According to the Times, Testerman wrote in 2010 that 85 officers associated with the charity did not exist.
At this point, Thompson was missing again. The FBI put out a wanted sign for Thomspon and ended up matching a photo of a man, Cody, in Ohio's Cuyahoga County jail. Fingerprint matching with Cody's military records matched the man going by Thompson.
In this May 8, 2012, file photo, John Donald Cody, who calls himself Bobby Thompson, appears at a hearing in Cuyahoga County Court in Cleveland. The Ohio attorney general s multi-state case against Cody, the alleged scam artist who collected as much as $100 million ostensibly for Navy veterans, doesn t address the man s donations to politicians. (Photo: AP)
The judge indicated both sides had tried to resolve the case before trial, but, when questioned by the judge, Patituce said nothing had developed.
Thompson was dressed in a suit and tie and passed notes to his attorney during final motions. Jury selection began afterward.
Patituce said he needed more time to prepare and cited the 20,000 documents which must be reviewed. The judge said the trial would move ahead.
His attorney said any fraud involved solicitors, not his client.
Authorities said the defendant used his VIP political connections to encourage donors to give to his charity.
While on the run, investigators tracked him through Arizona, Florida, Indiana, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Washington and West Virginia.