CLEVELAND (AP) — A recently captured fugitive suspected of running a scam that collected up to $100 million in donations for U.S. Navy veterans pleaded not guilty Tuesday to state charges, and a judge wary that he might disappear again ordered him kept locked up.
The man calls himself Bobby Thompson, though authorities don’t believe that’s his name but have been unable to identify him otherwise. Investigators say they have information that the man may have lived recently in New Mexico.
The man was arrested last week in Portland, Ore., by U.S. marshals after nearly two years as a fugitive.
Authorities believe he defrauded donors of up to $100 million in 41 states since 2001, including $2 million in Ohio. A fraction of the money has been found.
Authorities say Thompson’s Tampa, Fla.-based charity, known as the U.S. Navy Veterans 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.
The charges against the man include racketeering, money laundering, identity theft, records tampering and theft.
Thompson, dressed in an orange jail jumpsuit, sat with his manacled hands on his lap, smiling lightly when the prosecutor mentioned Thompson’s refusal to cooperate in identifying himself.
Brad Tammaro, chief counsel to Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, told the judge that Thompson was arrested with a suitcase full of phony IDs and apparently was planning to make more.
Without ties to the community and the possibility he may have access to the missing money, Thompson would be a risk to become a fugitive and should not be allowed to remain free pending trial, Tammaro said.
Tammaro outlined Thompson’s cross-country travels, often with only brief stops before moving elsewhere. “There is no reason for him to stay in this jurisdiction” if released pending trial, Tammaro said.
Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Hollie Gallagher agreed, refusing to set bond for him, meaning he’ll stay in jail. The judge said she was not satisfied he would appear in court if he’s released.
The defense attorney, Mark Stanton, told the judge that Thompson wants to represent himself and have an attorney assist him. Stanton said he was willing to serve in that capacity.
After the hearing, Stanton said he wouldn’t talk about any discussion he had with his client, including the risk of self-representation.
Authorities say they traced the name Bobby Thompson to a Choctaw who worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs and wasn’t connected to the charity case. Authorities say he had his identity stolen, including his Social Security number and date of birth.
10:11am 5/1/12 — Man Arrested in Navy Vet Fundraising Scam
By Thomas J. Sheeran/The Associated Press
CLEVELAND — Ohio’s attorney general and the U.S. Marshal’s office are announcing the arrest of a fugitive who is accused of running a scam that collected millions of dollars in donations from people who believed they were helping U.S. Navy veterans. He is believed to be from New Mexico.
A man who uses the false identify of Bobby Thompson was indicted in Ohio in 2010 on theft, money laundering and other charges related to the Florida-based charity. He disappeared in June 2010.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and Cleveland-based U.S. Marshal Peter Elliott announced the arrest Tuesday ahead of a briefing.
Authorities don’t know the man’s real name, but investigators have uncovered information that led them to believe Thompson may have lived recently in New Mexico.
U.S. Marshals say Thompson showed intimate knowledge of the Albuquerque area.