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Bobby Thompson: Elusive fugitive pleads not guilty in court

(WOIO) -

A mystery man who got busted in Oregon then extradited back to Cleveland faced a judge Tuesday and pleaded not guilty to several charges including fraud, theft, and corruption.

Bobby Thompson, 66, is behind bars. He's accused of scamming millions of dollars out of Ohioans -- money that had been donated for the sole purpose of aiding U.S. veterans. He was listed as one of Americas Most Wanted and elusive fugitive. Investigators are still unsure of the true identity of "Thompson" and will be working on that as well as identifying his ongoing criminal activity.

Authorities meantime, are sifting through the evidence which includes a suitcase filled with thousands of dollars. If found guilty Thompson could face up to 25 years in jail.

US Marshals captured Thompson late last month.

"Bobby Thompson", which was an alias, was on the run for over the last two years where he assumed numerous fictitious names and was known to alter his appearance. He was charged with Unlawful Flight to Avoid Prosecution, Identity Theft, Fraud, and Money Laundering. 

In the early 2000s, the subject, using the alias "Bobby Thompson", founded the U.S. Navy Veterans Association (USNVA), a charitable organization whose stated mission was to provide assistance to veterans and members of the U.S. Armed Forces.  The USNVA claimed to have a national headquarters in Washington D.C., but its base of operations was the Tampa, FL, area.  From its inception to the summer of 2010, it is estimated the USNVA received close to $100 million dollars in nationwide donations.  Officials in several states are investigating the USNVA and it is believed little, if any, of the money actually benefited veterans or current service members.  In August 2010, "Thompson" was charged in Ohio with various offenses relating to this fraudulent activity.  A co-conspirator is currently serving a five year prison sentence in Ohio for her role in this scam after pleading guilty in June 2011. 

"Thompson", the alleged mastermind of this plot, fled in June 2010, when he learned of the criminal investigation.  "Thompson" was featured on America's Most Wanted on two separate occasions, with the most recent being March 2011.

 In November 2011, the United States Marshals in the Northern District of Ohio were called on to spearhead the apprehension of "Thompson" who was indicted out of Cuyahoga County. 

In November 2011, United States Marshal Pete Elliott for the Northern District of Ohio was contacted by former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray and asked for his assistance in locating "Thompson".  Marshal Elliott immediately formed a task force in Cleveland, Ohio that has diligently pursued "Thompson" for over the last six months. Numerous leads were followed up while Ohio investigators tracked "Thompson" through several states to include Massachusetts, Arizona, New Mexico Rhode Island, West Virginia, Indiana, Florida and Washington.

"Thompson's" fictitious and fraudulent life on the run came to an abrupt end last night in Portland, Oregon.  After conducting an intense and thorough investigation, a team of Deputy U.S. Marshals and Task Force Officers from the Northern District of Ohio traveled to Portland, Oregon and coordinated efforts with the U.S. Marshals in the District of Oregon.  

On April 30th, at approximately 10:30PM, the team apprehended "Thompson" outside a residence on 72nd St., NE in Portland where he has been living under one of his new fictitious names.  Upon arrest, "Thompson" refused to make any statements.  He appeared to be in poor physical condition and was walking with a cane.  He was in possession of several false identification cards from Canada along with a backpack containing an undisclosed amount of cash.  All of his possessions were taken as evidence and search warrants are being obtained for his residence.  The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation traveled to Portland to further investigate.   

U.S. Marshal Pete Elliott stated, "This was one of our most challenging fugitive investigations to date.  Our investigators followed up leads all over the nation.  Their diligence and dedication directly led to the arrest in Portland.  I am proud of everyone that worked on this investigation and their efforts have brought this scam artist to justice."

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine stated, "We are relieved Bobby Thompson is now in federal custody after a nationwide manhunt and years of work within the Attorney General's Office to track him down.  We believe he stole between $1.5 million and $2 million which came from generous people in our state who thought they were helping U.S. Navy veterans."

Anyone with information regarding the identity or whereabouts of this fugitive is encouraged to contact the U.S. Marshals Service at:  1-866-4-WANTED or text keyword WANTED and the tip to 847411(tip411).  Tipsters may remain anonymous and a cash reward may be available. 


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