Sunday, May 20, 2018
Public safety

Among items found in accused Navy Vets con man's room: the movie 'Catch Me If You Can'

Among the personal belongings Bobby Thompson left behind in his rented room in Oregon this week was Catch Me If You Can, the hit movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio as a con man with a knack for stealing identities and evading the law.

Thompson, the mastermind behind the sham U.S. Navy Veterans Association charity, was caught Monday night in Portland after two years on the run.

As authorities continued sifting this week through the room he rented in a boarding house, they found a page full of passwords, two computers and nine thumb drives.

U.S. marshals on Wednesday found nearly $1 million in cash and a stash of other people's birth certificates and credit records in a storage unit not far from his rental. He had three wallets with three more stolen identities stuffed in his cargo pants when he was arrested.

Federal officials still don't know the real identity of Bobby Thompson, a name assumed by the man who raised millions of dollars for needy vets but shared little of it. But they say prosecutors will be able to use fingerprints, DNA and voice recordings to prove the man in custody is the same man who ran Navy Veterans.

Thompson arrived by commercial flight early Friday morning in Cleveland, where he faces charges of money laundering, fraud and identity theft. Although his charity was based in Tampa, it raised nearly $2 million in Ohio, the only state that pursued charges.

He was booked into Cuyahoga County Jail under the Thompson name, which he used during the eight years he ran Navy Veterans from a shabby duplex in Ybor City.

The Tampa Bay Times, in March 2010, exposed Navy Vets as a sham with fictional directors and offices that were mail drops. Thompson disappeared three months later. Officials later discovered that even his identity had been fake.

Thompson told jail officials in Ohio that he had a 12th-grade education. He gave his address as the room he had rented in Portland for the past month. Under "contact" he listed his Portland landlord, Celia Moore, whom he described as "friend."

That comes as a surprise to Moore.

"He just doesn't have anybody," Moore said of the tenant who called himself "Don Morsette." He had impressed her as intelligent and charming, though he revealed little of his personal life.

Moore said that since Thompson's arrest, she's learned that while she thought he spent his days working as a security consultant for Boeing, in fact he was at a sports bar down the street from her home. Despite the suitcase full of $100 bills, Thompson was also seen eating free meals at a nearby homeless shelter.

"Here's a man who could have been eating steak and lobster every night," Moore said of the tenant who left behind stacks of Ramen noodles in his room. "But I think money was just a scorecard he kept."

Anyone with information about Thompson's true identity can contact the U.S. Marshals Service at 1-866-4-WANTED. Tipsters may remain anonymous and a cash reward may be available.

Kris Hundley can be reached at (727) 892-2996 or [email protected]

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