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Ohio closes vet scam case as defendant set to testify

Bobby Thompson, whose real name is John Donald Cody, ran a charity for Navy vets in Ybor City.
Bobby Thompson, whose real name is John Donald Cody, ran a charity for Navy vets in Ybor City.
Published Nov. 6, 2013

CLEVELAND — After 17 days of testimony and 42 witnesses, the state of Ohio concluded its case Tuesday afternoon against Bobby Thompson, the man accused of fraud, money laundering and theft in connection with his operation of a Tampa veterans' charity.

Today, the jurors may finally get to hear from the man himself.

Defense attorney Joseph Patituce said he expects his client to take the stand in his own defense after four weeks of trial and hours of damaging testimony.

The defendant has acknowledged that his real name is John Donald Cody, a Harvard-trained lawyer who was a military intelligence officer in the U.S. Army until 1985. Thompson is an identity he stole from a man in Washington state.

As Thompson, he ran U.S. Navy Veterans from a dilapidated apartment in Ybor City for nearly a decade, raising more than $100 million in donations but giving little assistance to veterans.

During the past four weeks, witnesses have testified that Thompson had a dozen more fake identities in his possession when he was apprehended in April 2012.

It also emerged from testimony Tuesday that even as he was running Navy Veterans through mid 2010, he was building an arsenal of aliases. In 2005 and 2006, he opened two bank accounts in Tampa using the name of a Gallup, N.M., man, according to documents from the prosecution. And in 2008, he applied for a passport using the identity of another Gallup resident who was African-American. Thompson is white. The application was denied, but the reasons for the denial were not disclosed.

Though the jury has not heard from the defendant, they heard his voice indirectly Tuesday. Earlier this year, while still planning to represent himself, Thompson cross-examined Ronnie D. Brittain, the New Mexico resident whose identity was used on the Tampa bank accounts.

The deposition was video recorded in Gallup because the witness has a medical condition that prohibited his travel to Ohio. Thompson, dressed in orange jail scrubs and speaking softly, questioned Brittain via computer from Cleveland.

When Thompson asked the witness if he had actually lost any money because of having his identity stolen, Brittain snapped back.

"I don't know of any actual theft, but I don't find it very funny," said Brittain, whose name, birth date and Social Security number were fraudulently used by Thompson on numerous documents. "Someone did something they shouldn't be doing. That's the truth."