John Donald Cody’s long, strange trip into federal custody apparently passed through Virginia more than once.
The fugitive formerly known as Bobby Thompson was identified today as John Donald Cody, a 65 year-old University of Virginia and Harvard Law School graduate and former military intelligence officer who had been wanted by federal authorities since 1987.
Cody eluded authorities for nearly a quarter-century. During that period, he allegedly used a stolen identity to execute a scam in which tens of millions of dollars were bilked from people who thought they were contributing to a charity for military veterans.
The fraudulent charity, known as the U.S. Navy Veterans Association, collected at least $2 million from Virginia residents over a five-year period that ended in 2010, according to state officials. The man known as “Thompson” also made campaign contributions to Virginia politicians, including $55,500 to to the 2009 campaign of Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. Cuccinelli later gave the funds to veterans support organizations.
The U.S. Marshals Service in Cleveland, Ohio announced today that Cody was the man they have had in custody since May, when the man known as “Thompson” was arrested and charged with unlawful flight to avoid prosecution, identity theft, fraud, and money laundering in connection with his suspect charity activities. Cody, who has taken to signing his name “Mr. X,” remains detained in the Cuyahoga County Jail awaiting trial.
U.S. Marshal Pete Elliott identified Cody by starting with Google searches for cold case fraud fugitives who had ties to the military. He came across an FBI “Wanted” flier for a fugitive that had been wanted since 1987, and noticed that the man in the dated picture resembled the mysterious “Thompson.”
The man shown on the flier was identified as John Donald Cody, wanted on a warrant issued by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. The fugitive Cody was accused of stealing money from probate estates’ bank accounts and purchasing nearly $100,000 in traveler’s checks that he transported from Arizona to Virginia; using a false name on forms filed with a Virginia investment brokerage firm; making false statements to a Virginia bank to get a loan for approximately $25,000; and attempting to obtain bank loans under various alias identities.
According to the flier, Cody is a native of Hoboken, N.J. and graduated from UVa in 1969. He was a U.S. Army intelligence officer and practiced law in Arizona from 1980 to 1984.
“Cody reportedly does not have tear glands, and uses eye drops constantly,” the flier states. “He was known to wear a pompadour style toupee and tan his skin to an orange hue.”
Elliott said Cody’s military fingerprints matched those of the man known as “Thompson” who is sitting in the Cuyahoga County jail.
“We like getting challenged,” Elliott said in a brief telephone interview late this afternoon. “We have a right to know who’s in our custody.”
Elliott declined to say whether the suspect has admitted he is John Donald Cody.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Northern Ohio is talking with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Eastern Virginia regarding the 1987 charges and to determine the next steps, according to a news release from the U.S. Marshals Service.
– Michael Sluss