Timeline: The U.S. Navy Veterans Association

Aug. 3, 1998: Bobby C. Thompson, who says he's a lifelong Tampa resident, registers to vote in Hillsborough County for the first time. His registration puts his age at 52.

August 1999: Navy Veterans political action committee, NAVPAC, is formed. Thompson is listed as treasurer.

July 2002: With Thompson as a founding director, the Navy Veterans Association applies to the IRS for tax-exempt status. The application states the group has 119 members, expended $6,703 on behalf of veterans in the first half of 2002 and estimates annual revenues the next four years will not exceed $10,000.

January 2004: The Navy Veterans launches its website, www.navyvets.org, which will grow to more than 2,500 pages. The Web site says Jack Nimitz has been the group's CEO since 1998, though the non-profit was not formed until 2002.

Dec. 31, 2004: Navy Veterans national chapter reports annual revenues of $702,230.

Dec. 31, 2005: Navy Veterans reports annual revenues of $963,117.

Feb. 23, 2006: State of Florida issues ID card to Thompson, showing his address as 4 Redwood Lane, a rural address near Macclenny, west of Jacksonville.

Dec. 31, 2006: Navy Veterans reports annual revenues of $3.14 million.

Dec. 31, 2007: Navy Veterans reports annual revenues of $5.73 million.

Feb. 21, 2008: Tampa police question Thompson outside a downtown bank after patrons complain about a man using a large stack of credit/debit cards at an ATM. Thompson says he is a director of the Navy Veterans and needs all the cards for his job. He says he has no next of kin and refused to provide a friend's name in case of emergency.

Dec. 31, 2008: Navy Veterans reports annual revenues of $4.24 million.

April 2009: Seeking accreditation from a charity watchdog, the Navy Veterans sends an audit by New Orleans CPA Cee Smith, a disabled veteran, to the better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance. But there is no CPA office for the address listed for Smith, and the Navy Veterans later says it has lost track of the disabled vet because he is on active duty with U.S. armed forces.

Aug. 26, 2009: St. Petersburg Times' only face-to-face interview with Thompson, outside his $600-a-month duplex. Thompson says he is from Mississippi, is part Choctaw Indian and has a relative in the Choctaw Tribe named Bobby Thompson, "but I'm not him."

Aug. 31, 2009: Thompson makes a personal contribution of $50,000 to Virginia Attorney General Candidate Kenneth Cuccinelli, bringing to $180,950 the amount Thompson has reported contributing to political campaigns out of his own pocket in the last five years. The Cuccinelli contribution is part of a successful effort by Thompson to get a new law passed in Virginia giving veterans groups an exemption from state registration requirements.

Sept. 11, 2009: The Navy Veterans complains to the Times that the newspaper has been trying to "elicit negative information" about the non-profit. The charity announces that henceforth, no one at the Navy Veterans will speak to anyone at the newspaper. It says all communications now must go through the Navy Veterans' attorney, Helen Mac Murray in Ohio.

September 2009: Thompson says he was a lieutenant commander in the Navy, but the National Personnel Records Center says it has no record of active duty military service for Thompson. He won't divulge any details of his Navy service, active or reserve, except to say he joined "under age." Later, he says he took someone else's identity to enlist.

Oct. 12, 2009: Though it claims 16,000 members, NAVPAC notifies the Federal Elections Commission that it is going out business. The political action committee empties its bank account and donates the remaining $16,595 to the Navy Veterans charity. NAVPAC raised $146,228 in seven years but never disclosed the name of a single cash donor. The PAC operated out of the same office in the duplex in Ybor City where Thompson lived.

Late-October 2009: Thompson's name is removed from the position of director of development on the Navy Veterans website and replaced by the name "John Richardson."

Nov. 4, 2009: In a letter from Navy Veterans information officer Jim Beck, who had never been listed as an official with the charity, the group says it is denying the newspaper's request for tax records, claiming it is exempt from federal disclosure requirements because the charity has an all-volunteer force.

October -December 2009: Thompson clears out of his Ybor City duplex and leaves his landlord no forwarding address.

March 21, 2010: The Times publishes "Under the Radar,'' stories on the Navy Veterans Association. The newspaper found that 84 of the 85 officers of the charity listed on IRS tax documents — all but Thompson — are nowhere to be found, and 99 percent of its $22 million annual revenue cannot be accounted for.

April 7, 2010: New Mexico becomes the first of nine states to open investigations into the Navy Veterans. The New Mexico attorney general finds the charity's state officers are "fictional" and orders the group to cease all fundraising.

May 28, 2010: Senator Jim Webb of Virginia asks the IRS to investigate the Navy Veterans group.

June 16, 2010: The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Affairs orders the Navy Veterans to cease fundraising after finding only phony addresses listed for its Florida officers.

July 7, 2010: The two telemarketing firms raising the bulk of the money for the Navy Veterans, Associated Community Services and Community Support Inc., cancel their contracts. They say too many questions about the Navy Veterans remain unanswered.

July 15, 2010: Attorneys at the Ohio law firm representing the Navy Veterans, Mac Murray, Petersen & Shuster, tell a judge that only one person remained on the Navy Veterans board — Thompson — and that he has disappeared. The attorneys say they last had contact with Thompson on June 20.

July 28, 2010: Agents from the IRS and U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs raid a home in Tampa linked to Thompson associates Blanca and Nancy Contreras and cart away computer records and boxes of documents, including some that have been shredded.

Aug. 5, 2010: The office of Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray, which has already shut down the Navy Veterans fundraising and frozen the group's bank accounts in Ohio, issues a nationwide arrest warrant for "Thompson." Cordray says he stole the identity of a Washington state man named Bobby Thompson. Investigators say they have no idea what the real name of the Navy Veterans commander is or where he may be hiding.

Oct. 15, 2010: A grand jury in Ohio indicts Thompson and Tampa associate Blanca Contreras on charges of operating an illicit enterprise, money laundering and theft of more than $1 million from the citizens of Ohio. Contreras is arrested in North Carolina. Thompson remains at large. Ohio authorities say he stole a second identity — Ronnie Brittain — the head of a disabled veterans group in New Mexico.

Timeline: The U.S. Navy Veterans Association 10/15/10 [Last modified: Friday, October 15, 2010 2:36pm]

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