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Jury convicts ex-fugitive in $100M vets charity fraud case

Nov. 14, 2013 - 01:46PM   |  
Bobby Thompson
Bobby Thompson, who authorities have identified as Harvard-trained attorney John Donald Cody, looks at the jury during closing statements by the prosecution on Wednesday in Cleveland. (Tony Dejak / AP)
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CLEVELAND — A mysterious defendant in a $100 million, cross-country Navy veterans charity fraud case was convicted Thursday of racketeering, theft, money laundering and other charges.

Jurors deliberated for about three hours Wednesday before reaching guilty verdicts on all 23 counts. They heard nothing from the ex-fugitive, who changed his mind and decided against testifying. His attorney said he wanted to tell his story but worried about his mental state if he faced aggressive cross-examination by prosecutors.

The defendant identifies himself as 67-year-old Bobby Thompson, but authorities say he's Harvard-trained attorney John Donald Cody. He was indicted in 2010, disappeared for nearly two years and was arrested last year in Portland, Ore.

He faces up to 67 years in prison at his sentencing, which was scheduled for Dec. 16.

The defendant rolled his eyes toward the ceiling and rocked on his feet as the verdicts were read. Deputies cuffed his wrists after the first guilty verdict was announced. Unlike the last two days of his trial, the defendant showed up with his shirt buttoned and his hair combed.

He was charged with looting the United States Navy Veterans Association, a charity he ran in Tampa, Fla. As his five-week trial wound down, he had appeared disheveled in court, so much so that the judge suggested a break Tuesday to allow him to get a clean shirt and comb his hair.

"The defense rested without calling anyone to the stand because there is no defense for the scam that John Donald Cody pulled on Americans in the name of our country's veterans," said Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, whose office handled the trial.

Defense attorney Joseph Patituce said after the verdict that ineffective legal representation issues stemming from limited preparation time and his client's cooperation might be a basis for a planned appeal.

Patituce said he doubts other states will seek to prosecute his client at this point.

He also said he had questions about his client's mental health and asked the judge to order an assessment before sentencing. The judge agreed and urged the defendant to be honest with the mental health review team.

Patituce said earlier that the defendant had bloodied himself last week while pounding his head against the wall in a holding cell. The judge said the defendant was checked by the jail medical staff.

Authorities believe he defrauded donors of up to $100 million in 41 states. A fraction of that money was found.

When he was arrested, authorities found fake IDs and a suitcase with $980,000 in cash.

Records show the defendant had showered politicians, often Republicans, with political donations. The judge rejected a defense request to subpoena testimony from leading Ohio Republicans, including U.S. House Speaker John Boehner.

Authorities said they traced the name Bobby Thompson to a man who wasn't connected to the charity case and had his identity stolen, including his Social Security number and date of birth.

The defendant was identified through military fingerprint records.

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