An Ohio jury has convicted the mastermind of a fraudulent veterans charity that collected tens of millions of dollars from donors in several states, including Virginia.
The man, who used the stolen identity Bobby Thompson, also showered money on Virginia politicians and duped the General Assembly into passing legislation which could have allowed the suspect organization to skirt certain charitable reporting requirements.
A Cuyahoga County, Ohio jury this morning convicted John Donald Cody on 23 charges, including engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, identity fraud, and complicity to money laundering and theft. After prosecutors put on a lengthy case against Cody, Cody refused to testify and his defense attorney rested without making a closing argument to the jury.
Cody will be sentenced next month. He faces up to 66 years in prison.
“After weeks of testimony by dozens prosecution witnesses, 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 in a news release. “I thank the jury for their time and attention during this lengthy, complex trial.”
Cody also has been under investigation in Virginia, where his now-defunct charity, U.S. Navy Veterans Association, collected at least $2 million from state residents. The donations were solicited over five-year period that ended in 2010, according to findings by the state’s consumer affairs agency that were made public in 2011.
The agency began investigating the charity in 2010 after news reports raised questions about its fundraising and spending practices and the existence of many of its members. The address for the group’s Virginia chapter was a drop box at a UPS store just outside of Richmond.
The initial findings were turned over to Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s office, but Virginia authorities have not filed charges in the matter.
Cuccinelli distanced himself from the investigation because he accepted $55,500 in political contributions in 2009 from Cody, who was using the name Bobby Thompson. After Cody went missing in 2010, Cuccinelli donated $55,700 – the sequestered campaign funds plus interest – to veterans support groups in the state.
In 2010, the USNVA lobbied the General Assembly for an exemption from filing annual registration statements under the state’s charitable solicitation law. The General Assembly approved the exemption and Gov. Bob McDonnell signed it into law before becoming aware that the charity was under scrutiny in other states. Lawmakers swiftly repealed the exemption in 2011.
McDonnell and three legislators who received smaller campaign contributions from Cody announced plans to donate those funds to charity in May 2010, shortly after The Roanoke Times published a story detailing the U.S. Navy Vets’ efforts to gain the exemption.