Officials in Ohio on Wednesday announced that they had finally determined the long-sought true-identity of “Bobby Thompson,” who until earlier this year was one of America’s most-wanted fugitives, a man suspected of stealing millions from a scam charity called U.S. Navy Veterans Association.
It turns out that hiding inside one fugitive was another fugitive. Authorities say “Bobby Thompson” is really John Cody, a 1972 graduate of Harvard Law School, a former military intelligence officer, and a man who had been wanted by the FBI since the late 1980s.
Sometime between 1987, when an arrest warrant was issued for Cody on fraud charges, and the early 2000s, Cody allegedly reinvented himself as Bobby Thompson, and then succeeded in scamming his way into photo-ops with some of the most powerful politicians in the country, including then-President George W. Bush, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), and then-House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH). “Thompson” and at least one other associate took in almost $100 million in donations from people in forty-one states for the U.S. Navy Veterans Association, which was a sham organization, and authorities believe Cody made away with millions. He vanished in 2010, after learning that ‘Thompson” was the subject of a criminal investigation.
A task force led by U.S. Marshal for the Northern District of Ohio Pete Elliott followed leads in several states before finally apprehending Cody in Portland, Ore., in late April. Cody, 65, was in “poor physical condition” and walking with a cane when he was arrested, but a storage locker rented under one of his aliases contained several birth certificates and nearly $1 million in cash. Even after his arrest, Cody refused to reveal his true identity, refused to speak to investigators, and, when given documents to sign, he would sign them with an “X.”
At a press conference Monday, Elliott said he had been Googling fugitives when he came across an old wanted poster for Cody that included a computer-aged image, and he noticed a resemblance. Cody had fled arrest before authorities had a chance to fingerprint him, but Elliott was able to get Cody’s prints from military records, and then match them with “Thompson.”
“Thank goodness for Google,” Elliot said, according to The Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Eric Lach is a reporter for TPM. From 2010 to 2011, he was a news writer in charge of the website’s front page. He has previously written for The Daily, NewYorker.com, GlobalPost and other publications. He can be reached at ericl(at)talkingpointsmemo.com