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Man pleads not guilty in Navy charity scam

May. 8, 2012 - 11:36AM   |   Last Updated: May. 8, 2012 - 11:36AM  |  
A man who identified himself as Bobby Thompson appears May 8 at a hearing in Cuyahoga County Court in Cleveland. The man is accused of running a scam that collected millions in donations from people who believed they were helping Navy veterans.
A man who identified himself as Bobby Thompson appears May 8 at a hearing in Cuyahoga County Court in Cleveland. The man is accused of running a scam that collected millions in donations from people who believed they were helping Navy veterans. (Amy Sancetta / The Associated Press)
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CLEVELAND — A recently captured fugitive suspected of running a scam that collected up to $100 million in donations for 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. Authorities don't believe that's his name but have been unable to identify him otherwise.

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.

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