Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Opinion

Just who is 'Bobby Thompson'?

Let's be very clear about this. If Bobby Thompson, or Anderson Yazzie, or — for all we know — Keyser Soze, or whatever his cockamamie name is, turns out to be the actual con man who finagled millions of dollars for his phony U.S. Navy Veterans Association, then this chap deserves to spend hoosegow sentences for each of his phone book of aliases.

Sheesh, this guy apparently had more multiple identities than Sybil.

And so, after a nationwide U.S. marshal manhunt, "Bobby Thompson" was arrested a few days ago after leaving a Portland, Ore., bar. Well, at least he had plenty of ID to get served.

The charges include fraud, money laundering and identity theft. Gee, do you think?

Still, the Thompson case remains a fascinating exercise in criminal mischief, once more demonstrating that chutzpah will almost always trump gullibility.

In retrospect, it stretches the bounds of credulity that this mystery man could mastermind such a massive scam. The unknown huckster ran his money-grubbing operation out of a dilapidated house in Ybor City, usually showed up at social functions looking more like Clem Kadiddlehopper than a savvy fundraiser and ladled promotional material with a list of either fictitious people or people who were completely uninvolved with the con.

Yet, he pulled it off — for quite a while. Thompson was smart enough to know how to skirt IRS tax-exempt rules while raking in perhaps as much as $100 million over eight years. Or maybe more.

How could that happen? From 2002, when Thompson created the U.S. Navy Veterans Association, until he went on the lam in 2010 after the Times began investigating the fake charity, things went swimmingly for the Professor Harold Hill of grifting.

Perhaps Thompson had a too cruel understanding of human nature. Most of us want to believe a good story. "Bobby Thompson" was raising money for heroic Navy veterans. Who wouldn't want to contribute to that?

Instead, Thompson took advantage of the fundamental good nature of people. And by the time everybody found out that this character was a creep — poof! He was gone. The money, too.

Conniving. Duplicitous. Immoral. To be sure, "Bobby Thompson" was all of those things. And, you also have to grudgingly admit, brilliant, too.

It's an old criminal court axiom: If only this thief had applied his considerable skills to make an honest living, Thompson might well be enjoying the high life in a swanky manse instead of a jail cell in Portland.

But it is also true that a swindler's heart beats faster in the hunt for ill-gotten gains than when playing by the book.

And that brings us, perhaps, to the greatest mystery of all: Just who is this flimflam artiste?

In an age when it would seem literally impossible to simply disappear in plain sight in society — at least as of this writing — the badges still have no idea who that guy sitting in the slammer really is.

Thompson has not been helpful, signing papers associated with his arrest in a big fat X. Fingerprints so far have not revealed his name, which would suggest he has never been arrested before. And that might also suggest a DNA sample won't turn up much either.

So who is this charlatan?

Why did he do what he did?

And, oh yeah, where's the rest of the money?

Yet X isn't in a chatty mood.

But that's okay. Everyone now has plenty of time.

Comments
Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Innocent children should not be used as political pawns. That is exactly what the Trump administration is doing by cruelly prying young children away from their parents as these desperate families cross the Mexican border in search of a safer, better...
Updated: 10 hours ago

Editorial: ATF should get tougher on gun dealers who violate the law

Gun dealers who break the law by turning a blind eye to federal licensing rules are as dangerous to society as people who have no right to a possess a firearm in the first place. Yet a recent report shows that the federal agency responsible for polic...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/18/18
Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

The new grass-roots effort to put a transportation package before Hillsborough County voters in November faces a tough slog. Voters rejected a similar effort in 2010, and another in 2016 by elected officials never made it from the gate. But the lates...
Published: 06/15/18
Editorial: 40 years later, honoring remarkable legacy of Nelson Poynter

Editorial: 40 years later, honoring remarkable legacy of Nelson Poynter

Forty years ago today, Nelson Poynter died. He was the last individual to own this newspaper, and to keep the Times connected to this community, he did something remarkable. He gave it away.In his last years, Mr. Poynter recognized that sooner or lat...
Published: 06/15/18

There was no FBI anti-Trump conspiracy

The Justice Department released Thursday the highly anticipated report on the FBI’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email probe and other sensitive issues in the 2016 election. It is not the report President Donald Trump wanted. But there is enough i...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

Voter purge may be legal, but it’s also suppression

The Supreme Court’s ruling last Monday to allow Ohio’s purging of its voter rolls is difficult to dispute legally. While federal law prohibits removing citizens from voter rolls simply because they haven’t voted, Ohio’s purge is slightly different. T...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

Editorial: Free rides will serve as a test of whether the streetcar is serious transportation

Who wouldn’t jump at the chance to ride for free?This fall, the TECO Streetcar Line eliminates its $2.50-a-ride-fare, providing the best opportunity yet to see whether the system’s vintage streetcar replicas can serve as a legitimate transportation a...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

AT&T and the case for digital innovation

A good way to guarantee you’ll be wrong about something is to predict the future of technology. As in, "One day, we’ll all …" Experts can hazard guesses about artificial intelligence, driverless cars or the death of cable television, but technologica...
Published: 06/14/18
Editorial: State, nonprofits share obligation to help Hillsborough’s foster kids

Editorial: State, nonprofits share obligation to help Hillsborough’s foster kids

The Florida Department of Children and Families has correctly set a quick deadline for Hillsborough County’s main child welfare provider to correct its foster care program. For too long the same story has played out, where troubled teens who need fos...
Published: 06/14/18
Editorial: Educate voters on Amendment 4 and restoring felons’ rights

Editorial: Educate voters on Amendment 4 and restoring felons’ rights

This fall voters will have 13 constitutional amendments to wade through on the ballot, but Amendment 4 should get special focus. It represents a rare opportunity to rectify a grievous provision in the Florida Constitution, which permanently revokes t...
Published: 06/13/18
Updated: 06/14/18