Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Navy veterans group takes out newspaper ad, says it's legit

This is the U.S. Navy Veterans Association ad published Thursday in the Tampa Tribune.

This is the U.S. Navy Veterans Association ad published Thursday in the Tampa Tribune.

TAMPA — The U.S. Navy Veterans Association, now being investigated by two Florida agencies, placed a quarter-page ad in the Tampa Tribune Thursday urging veterans to continue donations to the group and making assurances that its fundraising is beyond reproach.

Though the nonprofit already has been shut down in one state, the ad says the Navy Veterans group continues to conduct activities for veterans across the United States. The ad features a color photograph showing a patient at James A. Haley VA Medical Center who benefited from a charitable gift last year. The patient is surrounded by 14 people, some of whom are described as members and officers of the Navy Veterans group who "really exist." None are identified.

The ad takes a slap at the St. Petersburg Times for stories published in March that revealed the nonprofit's members and officers are nowhere to be found and millions of dollars in charitable gifts are mostly undisclosed and unverifiable.

"A recent newspaper series attempted to poke holes in our operation," the ad says. "We want to assure you that we meet every standard in our fundraising efforts and the administration of the Association.

"This is America and our supporters know that character assassination is not the American way."

The ad says that all donations are "completely tax deductible" and provides a toll-free number for Charity Support Service, a Volusia County fundraiser that liquidates donated vehicles to provide funds for the Navy veterans.

That fundraiser is not currently registered with the state. Charity Support Service's president, Richard T. O'Daniel, registered in 2008, records show, but the registration expired in March of last year and has not been renewed as required by Florida's charitable solicitations law.

O'Daniel hung up on a reporter who called him Thursday.

Helen Mac Murray, general counsel for the Navy Veterans Association, did not immediately respond to e-mailed questions seeking comment.

Little money from the vehicle donation service has gone to the charity. Tax returns for 2008 show Charity Support Service kept $16,096 of the $18,656 it brought in that year, or 86 percent. Only $2,560 went to the veterans group.

Formed in Tampa and granted tax-exempt status in 2002, the Navy Veterans says it has grown from a handful of members to more than 66,000, maintains chapters in some 40 states and oversees annual income in excess of $22 million.

But in a six-month investigation, the Times was able to locate just one of 85 Navy Veterans officers or directors nationwide: Bobby Thompson, who helped found the group. When the newspaper began asking questions, Thompson cleared out of his Ybor City duplex and left his landlord no forwarding address.

After the stories were published, the New Mexico attorney general shut down the Navy Veterans chapter there, and the Florida attorney general and consumer services division opened their own investigations of the nonprofit.

Thompson, 64, has described himself as a lieutenant commander in the U.S. Navy Reserve, retired, and he has personally contributed more than $181,000 to political candidates around the country.

The Times reported that it was unable to document Thompson's military service, despite enlisting the help of the POW Network, a nonprofit veterans rights group expert at verifying military records.

A new posting on the Navy Veterans Web site provides a different version of Thompson's military service, saying that in the 1960s he "had to use a relative's ID" in order to join the U.S. Navy underage.

"While he did join for patriotic reasons, the fact is he did that, and it's done," the Web posting says. "Thompson does not regret joining; he does regret the fact that he may have broken the law to do so, and apologizes to any family member who might hold it against him."

Jeff Testerman can be reached at (813) 226-3422 or John Martin can be reached at (813) 226-3372 or

Navy veterans group takes out newspaper ad, says it's legit 04/22/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 26, 2010 11:29am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Controversial pick for next principal of St. Petersburg High put on hold


    Robert Gagnon was all set to be the new principal at St. Petersburg High, a plum position in the Pinellas County school district. His name was on a list of top administrative candidates to be approved at a special School Board meeting Tuesday.

    Robert Gagnon, who currently serves as an assistant principal at Northeast High in St. Petersburg, was tapped to lead St. Petersburg High next year pending School Board approval. The recommendation for his appointment was pulled from the School Board agenda by school district superintendent Mike Grego on Monday in light of "new information shared with me" regarding Gagnon's administrative experience in Lake County, according to an email sent to Pinellas County School Board members.
  2. Even presidents get sinkholes: One has formed at Trump's Mar-a-Lago

    Bizarre News

    Even presidential mansions are susceptible to sinkholes — especially if they're in Florida.

    A sinkhole has formed in front of President Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate in south Florida.
  3. Every Little Thing podcast
  4. Goodbye Tampa Bay Express, hello Tampa Bay Next; but toll lanes aren't going anywhere


    TAMPA — Tampa Bay Express is dead.

    But it's replacement — Tampa Bay Next — will likely include many of the same projects, including express toll lanes on the rebuilt Howard Frankland Bridge.

    The Florida Department of Transportation on Monday announced that it was renaming its Tampa Bay Express plan, also known as TBX. The plan will now be known as Tampa Bay Next, or TBN. DOT officials say there are still re-evaluating the most controversial aspect of the old TBX plan: spend $6 billion to add 90 miles of toll roads to bay area highways - Interstates 4,75 and 275 - that are currently free of tolls. But TBN will keep the plan to add express toll lanes to the rebuilt Howard Frankland Bridge. [Florida Department of Transportation]
  5. Trigaux: Tampa Bay lands on Forbes 2017 ranking of best places for young professionals

    Working Life

    Consider this one more notch in the belt of Tampa Bay starting to win serious attention from millennials as place to live and build a career.

    Mike Griffin is a senior managing director in Tampa for Savills Studley Occupier Services, which provides integrated real estate services. He is also chairman for 2017 of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce, the first of the next generation of leadership emerging in this metro market. [Courtesy of Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce]