Trial set for alleged Navy charity scammer in Ohio

CLEVELAND (AP) — A one-time fugitive is headed to trial on charges of masterminding a $100 million multi-state fraud under the guise of helping Navy veterans.

The defendant headed to trial Monday calls himself Bobby Thompson, but authorities identified him as Harvard-trained lawyer and former military intelligence officer John Donald Cody, 67.

He was arrested last year in Portland, Ore., after two years on the run.

He’s charged with defrauding people who donated to a reputed charity for Navy veterans, the United States Navy Veterans Association based in Tampa, Fla.

The alleged fraud spanned 41 states, including up to $2 million in Ohio. Authorities said little, if any, of the money collected by the charity was used to benefit veterans.

The defendant showered politicians, many of them Republicans, with political donations. His defense team had sought to force testimony by recipients to show his actions were legal, but a judge rejected the move last week.

His attorney said any fraud involved solicitors, not his client.

Authorities said the defendant used his VIP political connections to encourage donors to give to his charity.

While on the run, investigators tracked him through Arizona, Florida, Indiana, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Washington and West Virginia.

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