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Man who bilked millions in Navy charity scam gets 28 years

9:19 PM, Dec 16, 2013   |    comments
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(CNN) -- A man convicted of running a charity scam that stole millions of dollars intended for Navy veterans was sentenced in an Ohio courtroom Monday to 28 years in prison -- including solitary confinement on every Veterans Day during that span -- the Ohio attorney general's office said.

The man, who calls himself Bobby Thompson -- but who authorities say is lawyer and former Army Capt. John Donald Cody -- also was ordered by a judge to pay more than $6.3 million in fines and more than $330,000 to cover court and prosecution costs.

The defendant was convicted in a Cuyahoga County court last month of running a telemarketing scam through his Florida-based U.S. Navy Veterans Association. Authorities have said the charity raised about $100 million from donors in 41 states from 2002 to 2010, but little went to help veterans, The Plain Dealer newspaper of Cleveland reported.

Google search reveals true identity of suspect in Navy charity scam

"It's horrible when a scammer victimizes people, but to do it under the cover story of helping veterans is just plain evil," Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said Monday. 

"Ohioans thought their hard-earned money was going to help honorable veterans. I am glad Bobby Thomson/John Donald Cody is now being held accountable for his despicable actions."

"Thompson" disappeared in 2010 after the St. Petersburg Times in Florida ran stories questioning the charity's legitimacy. 

U.S. marshals arrested him in Oregon after a two-year nationwide manhunt, during which he was placed on the list of TV's "America's Most Wanted" fugitives. Investigators said they found more than $980,000 in his suitcase, located in an Oregon storage unit.

U.S. marshals said Thompson is really John Donald Cody, now 67, who graduated from Harvard Law School in 1972, served as a captain in the U.S. Army's military intelligence unit and once practiced law in Arizona.

The Ohio attorney general's office prosecuted the case, alleging that donors from that state gave more than $2 million to the charity.

Cody was convicted in November of 23 charges relating to crimes in Ohio, including engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, racketeering, money laundering, records tampering, theft and identity theft, CNN affiliate WKYC reported.

At his trial, prosecution witnesses testified that Thompson forged identification cards with stolen identities, and faked signatures and addresses of charity offices, The Plain Dealer reported.

Monday's fines of $6.3 million aren't the first to be put on Cody's tab. In 2011, while Cody was a fugitive, an Ohio judge ruled against the charity in a civil lawsuit that the state attorney general had filed, ordering the charity to pay about $3.9 million.

The judge in the criminal case, Steven Gall, ordered Monday that the $980,000 found in the suitcase be put toward the $3.9 million civil judgment. DeWine's office said it would distribute the money to legitimate veterans' charities.

Veterans' charities already have received $101,000 that authorities seized from bank accounts associated with Cody or the charity, DeWine's office said.

If investigators find any other money connected to the case, DeWine's office likely would ask that it be applied first to the civil restitution, and then to the criminal fines, said Dan Tierney, spokesman for the state attorney general's office.

Cody had faced a prison sentence of between 10 and 70 years, according to the newspaper.

He plans to appeal the conviction, The Plain Dealer reported, citing defense attorney Joseph Patituce.

CNN

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