Sunday, February 25, 2018
Public safety

U.S. Navy Veterans Association timeline: Events involving the man known as Bobby Thompson and the sham charity he created in Tampa

July 2002: With Bobby C. Thompson listed as a founding director, the Navy Veterans Association applies to the IRS for tax-exempt status The application estimates annual revenues over the next four years at less than $10,000.

Dec. 31, 2006: Navy Veterans reports annual revenues of $3.14 million, far above its original estimate. Revenues would eventually peak at nearly $6 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.

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: Tampa Bay 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 law passed in Virginia giving veterans groups an exemption from state registration requirements.

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: U.S. Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., 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 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.

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."

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.

March 19, 2011: Thompson is featured on an episode of America's Most Wanted.

Jan. 31, 2012: The U.S. Marshals Service puts Thompson's face on digital billboards in New Mexico, where they think he may be hiding.

April 30: Thompson is taken into custody in Portland, Ore.

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