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Court documents say U.S. Navy Veterans Association volunteer took $416,000

Blanca Contreras, a Tampa woman listed as an unpaid volunteer for the U.S. Navy Veterans Association, personally took hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash from the charity's account, according to court papers filed Wednesday by the office of the Ohio attorney general.

Between October 2007 and June of this year, the Clair-Mel resident "personally withdrew $416,000 in cash from a single USNVA account," according to a motion asking that Contreras be held on $2 million bail.

Contreras, a 38-year-old mother of five, pleaded not guilty at her arraignment Wednesday. The judge set bail at $2 million.

Contreras and "Bobby Thompson," the stolen identity used by the man who created the U.S. Navy Veterans Association, face a maximum of 25 years in prison on the corruption indictments. In its bail motion, the Ohio Attorney General's Office said it anticipates seeking additional felony charges against Contreras. Thompson is a fugitive.

An Ohio grand jury indicted them this month on charges of racketeering, money laundering and theft of more than $1 million.

Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray says the Navy Veterans nonprofit, founded in Tampa in 2002, was an elaborate hoax that used fictional names, phony records and a network of rented post office boxes to defraud the public and steal an estimated $2 million from Ohio residents.

Thompson ran the Navy Veterans charity from his $600-a-month Ybor City duplex before moving out last fall and then vanishing in late June.

In August, Ohio authorities charged the charity director with stealing the identity of a real Washington state man named Bobby Thompson and later with stealing the identity of a New Mexico veteran named Ronnie D. Brittain.

"Commander Thompson" is now sought on a nationwide fugitive warrant, but authorities do not know who he is, where he may be hiding, or what happened to the $99.7 million the charity claimed to have raised.

Cordray says thousands of dollars were funneled from the sham charity to political campaigns, some using phony names and traced to postal addresses used by the Navy Veterans group.

Court documents say U.S. Navy Veterans Association volunteer took $416,000 10/27/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 27, 2010 11:07pm]
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