“Bernie Madoff of Charity Scams” Hides Cash In Storage

June 28, 2012 0
“Bernie Madoff of Charity Scams” Hides Cash In Storage

At the dramatic culmination of a two-year-long nationwide manhunt, U.S. Marshals from Ohio tracked down a swindler who funneled nearly $100 million through a fraudulent charity for Navy Veterans. After chasing leads in Massachusetts, New Mexico, Rhode Island, Arizona, West Virginia and Florida, the Marshals finally found the culprit at an Irish pub in Oregon.

Inside his Portland self-storage locker, authorities discovered $981,650 dollars in cash, stolen birth certificates, social security cards, and credit reports. Charged with racketeering, money laundering, identity theft, records tampering and theft, Thompson is looking at 80 years in prison. He’s currently being held without bond in an Ohio prison.

Photo from U.S. Marshals

Although he goes by the alias “Bobby Thompson,” the con artist’s real identity is unknown. His fingerprints haven’t turned up any leads, he’s not talking, and he signed all booking papers “Mr. X.” Upon arrest, he had three wallets on his person, all containing different counterfeit IDs. From the prosecution’s standpoint, Thompson’s real name is irrelevant to the case at hand. Chief legal counsel for the Ohio Attorney General Brad Tammaro said: “If he wants to go by the name Mr. X, we’ll prosecute him as Mr. X.”

Former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray calls Thompson “the Bernie Madoff of charity scams,” and others have described him as charismatic, sociopathic, an “evil genius.”

“He’s a master liar,” said Bill Boldin, a deputy U.S. Marshal from Ohio. As it turns out, the real Bobby Thompson is a Choctaw who worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs and currently lives in Seattle.

Authorities speculate Thompson got a rush from deceiving authorities. At one point, he brazenly hired Helen MacMurray, a former prosecutor of charity fraud in the Ohio Attorney General’s Office. In fact, it was MacMurray who successfully guided Thompson’s fraudulent U.S. Navy Veterans Association through an IRS audit in 2009. She was one the last people to see Thompson before he went on the lam.

As an interesting aside and further proof that Thompson enjoyed his game of cat-and-mouse with authorities, a DVD of the 2002 film Catch Me If You Can was one of the few possessions uncovered at his Portland boarding house. Also, he was wearing a Michigan sweatshirt when the Ohio authorities apprehended him. The Michigan/Ohio State football game is regarded as the #1 rivalry in North America.

Bobby Thompson and U.S. Marshal William Boldin. Photo from U.S. Marshals

The man knew how to work the system. Over the years, Thompson donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to Republican politicians, including Michele Bachmann, Rudy Giuliani, George W. Bush, John McCain and Elizabeth Dole. He was Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s second-largest donor. Cuccinelli has subsequently reallocated the funds he received from Thompson to legitimate veteran’s support groups. As of today, there is nothing to indicate these politicians were cognizant of the scam.

Photo from Ohio Attorney General

Although Thompson started the U.S. Navy Veterans Association in 2002, things began unraveling for him in 2010, when investigations by newspaper reporters led to the discovery of fictitious names on tax documents. None of the charity’s $22.4 million in annual revenue could be accounted for, nor was there any record of a “Commander Bobby Thompson” having served in the Navy Reserve.

After these revelations, Virginia Senator Jim Webb asked the IRS and Department of Veteran Affairs to investigate USNVA, which led to the arrest of Thompson’s two assistants in Tampa, Florida, one of whom is currently serving a five-year prison sentence for her role in the grift.

Federal authorities froze over 60 bank accounts throughout the country, and an inquiry in Ohio revealed the entire USNVA business operation was comprised of hired telemarketers, remote bank accounts and rented mailboxes. At this point, Bobby Thompson was featured on an episode of “America’s Most Wanted,” which authorities believe may have been the catalyst for his cross-country trek from Providence, RI to Portland, OR.

Peter J. Elliot, U.S. Marshal for the Northern District of Ohio, calls the case “one of our most challenging fugitive investigations to date,” and it’s far from over. Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine has said on the record that he believes there’s more cash out there.

It is estimated Thompson’s USNVA swindled over 60,000 donors – nearly $2 million – in the state of Ohio alone. At a press conference at the Bureau of Criminal Investigation last month, special agent Al Bansky and Attorney General Mike DeWine said it is their intention to retrieve as much money as possible and get it into the hands of legitimate organizations that help veterans.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine (right) and special agent Al Bansky (left). Photo from Akron Beacon Journal Online

If you have any information about this man’s identity, please contact 1-866-4-WANTED or text “WANTED” and your tip to 847411. Anyone who provides information will remain anonymous and may receive a cash reward.

Considering that this man has spent the last two years traveling across the country using various aliases, it is entirely possible there is more cash located in self-storage units under false names. In the past, he has used the aliases Elmer Dosier and Ronnie Brittain, and the Bureau of Criminal Investigation has released four more aliases he may have used:

  • Anderson Yazzie
  • Dale Anderson Booqua
  • Kenneth D. Morsette
  • Alan Reace Lacy

If you have a tenant in default with one of these names, call 1-855-BCI-OHIO.

Photo courtesy of the Associated Press