Charity Scammer Gets Convicted

November 14, 2013       The NonProfit Times      

Bobby Thompson, the alias of a man who scammed donors out of $100-million via his charity, was found guilty yesterday by a jury in Cleveland, Ohio. He faces between 10 and 70 years in prison.

The defendant, whose real name is John Donald Cody, a Harvard-trained lawyer, used the stolen identity of Bobby Thompson to help run the Tampa, Fla.-based U.S. Navy Veterans Association from 2008-2010. During the course of the six-week trial, prosecutors presented evidence to jurors that showed that Cody allegedly hired telemarketers to collect up to $100-million from donors across the nation. It was alleged that Cody funneled most of those contributions into political contributions.

While the prosecution, led by Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, called 42 witnesses to the stand to present their case, defense attorney Joseph Patituce called no witnesses other than Cody because, as he reportedly told The Cleveland Plain Dealer, he had no time to prepare a case.

After weeks of testimony by dozens of prosecution witnesses, the defense rested without calling anyone to the stand because there is no defense for the scam that John Donald Cody pulled on Americans in the name of our country’s veterans,” said DeWine in a statement after the verdict had been reached.

Cody’s actions were first reported to be fraudulent in 2010 by a newspaper in St. Petersburg, Fla. That article reported that none of the organization’s officers existed, state office locations were mailboxes and little money was spent to aid veterans. Cody disappeared for two-years but was eventually tracked down in Portland, Ore., and was arrested by U.S. Marshals. Charges were bought against him by the state on behalf of Ohio donors who gave more than $2 million to the USNVA.

Cody initially acted as his own attorney before hiring Patituce, and filed motions with the court claiming he was working as an agent for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) while he worked for USNVA, and that the charges against him were politically motivated. Cody reportedly had no reaction as he was read the guilty verdict. Judge Steven Gall, who presided over the trial, is expected to reach a decision on sentencing by Dec. 16.