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Man arrested in $100M Navy vet charity scam

May. 1, 2012 - 01:09PM   |   Last Updated: May. 1, 2012 - 01:09PM  |  
A man who went by the alias Bobby C. Thompson and other fictitious names is seen in an arrest photo April 30. The U.S. Marshals Service in Cleveland announced the arrest of the man in Portland, Ore., on accusations of running a scam that collected millions of dollars in donations from people who believed they were helping Navy veterans.
A man who went by the alias Bobby C. Thompson and other fictitious names is seen in an arrest photo April 30. The U.S. Marshals Service in Cleveland announced the arrest of the man in Portland, Ore., on accusations of running a scam that collected millions of dollars in donations from people who believed they were helping Navy veterans. (U.S. Marshals Service via AP)
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This undated photo shows a man calling himself Bobby Charles Thompson, right, with former Rep. Adam Putnam, R-Fla. Thompson, who is accused of running a bogus charity for Navy veterans, was arrested in Oregon on Monday. (Ohio Attorney General's Office via AP)

CLEVELAND — A fugitive was arrested on accusations that he ran a scam that collected millions of dollars in donations from people who believed they were helping Navy veterans, Ohio's attorney general and the U.S. Marshal's office in Cleveland announced Tuesday.

The man uses the false identify of Bobby Thompson and was indicted in Ohio in 2010 on theft, money laundering and other charges related to the Florida-based charity. He disappeared in June 2010. Little, if any, of the money collected by the charity was used to benefit veterans, authorities have said.

Authorities acting on a tip tracked Thompson to a bar in Portland, Ore., on Monday night, followed him home and made the arrest, said Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine. He had multiple fake ID cards, DeWine said.

DeWine said authorities hope to have the man in Ohio in 10 days, where he will be tried in state court in Cleveland. The alleged fraud involved $100 million in 41 states, including up to $2 million in Ohio, said U.S. Marshal Peter Elliot.

Authorities still don't know the man's real name, but investigators uncovered information earlier this year that led them to believe he may have lived recently in New Mexico.

The arrest closes a search dating back several years and involving a Tampa, Fla.-based charity known as the U.S. Navy Veterans Association.

Last year, an alleged co-defendant of Thompson's, Blanca Contreras of Tampa, Fla., was sentenced to five years in prison for her role in the scam. Contreras had pleaded guilty to theft, money laundering and other charges related to allegations she handled nearly $475,000 in Ohio donations for the charity.

Former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray had also investigated Thompson and had worked with the Hamilton County prosecutor's office on an arrest warrant issued from Cincinnati, where in 2003 the man set up a UPS mailbox to collect donations for the association.

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 association made a few sporadic contributions that benefited veterans, but public records show the man behind it contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to political candidates around the country, Cordray said in 2010. Authorities didn't know the motives for those contributions, Cordray said.

Cordray's office froze the association's bank accounts and drop boxes and ordered it to stop operations in Ohio.

Andrew Welsh-Huggins contributed to this report from Columbus.

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