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Authorities find nearly $1 million in storage unit rented by Navy Vets' Thompson

A photo shows $951,650 seized Wednesday from a Portland, Ore., storage unit allegedly rented under an alias used by the fugitive founder of the U.S. Navy Veterans Association charity scam.

U.S. Marshals Service

A photo shows $951,650 seized Wednesday from a Portland, Ore., storage unit allegedly rented under an alias used by the fugitive founder of the U.S. Navy Veterans Association charity scam.

Federal agents seeking clues about Bobby Thompson's true identity got a warrant to search a storage locker in Oregon on Wednesday and found two suitcases.

One was packed with $981,650 in $100s, $50s and $20s.

The other was filled with birth certificates, credit reports and other personal information needed to steal the identities of dozens of unsuspecting people.

U.S. marshals believe the money came from donors to U.S. Navy Veterans Association, the sham charity he ran for years from a duplex in Tampa.

Though Thompson promised the donations would help needy veterans, a Tampa Bay Times series in March 2010 revealed that little of the nearly $100 million raised by Navy Veterans benefited former soldiers. Instead, Thompson had concocted a charity using fictitious directors, nonexistent offices and only one real operator: Thompson himself.

Even his identity was fake, stolen from a man in Washington state.

Thompson disappeared in mid 2010, just before being indicted in Ohio on charges of money laundering, fraud and identity theft. On April 30 he was arrested in Portland after nearly two years on the run.

Thompson was carrying three wallets, all with different identification papers. Under one of those stolen identities, Alan Lacy, he had rented a storage unit at 111 SE Belmont in Portland in December. It was there that agents discovered the cash and stolen personal information. The cash was wrapped in newspapers dating from late 2008.

Mike DeWine, Ohio's attorney general, said he was pleasantly surprised at the discovery.

"This is certainly more than we expected to recover and will eventually help with victim restitution," he said. DeWine estimated Ohio residents donated as much as $2 million over the years to Navy Veterans.

Florida, where Navy Veterans operated since 2002, filed a lawsuit against Thompson in 2010 but dropped it when he became a fugitive.

U.S. Marshal Peter J. Elliott of the northern district of Ohio led the task force that trailed Thompson cross-country as he constantly changed identities. Thompson relocated frequently, moving from Arizona to Washington to Rhode Island to Indiana. While in the Northeast, he started another charity, the Plymouth Rock Society of Christian Pilgrims.

Thompson is now in federal custody in Oregon and expected to be extradited within the next few days to Ohio.

His real identity is still unknown.

Kris Hundley can be reached at (727) 892-2996 or khundley@tampabay.com.

Authorities find nearly $1 million in storage unit rented by Navy Vets' Thompson 05/03/12 [Last modified: Thursday, May 3, 2012 2:22pm]
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