Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Wow, Got Him!! Charity Fraud At Its Best

By Gary Snyder

We have been following the ‘career’ of Bobby Thompson for years. Bobby ran a fake charity from Tampa (FL) known as the U.S. Navy Veterans Association. He eluded prosecution for years and took upwards of $100 million from donors who thought they were helping needy veterans. He did it over an eight-year period, ending in 2010.

The man who referred to himself as Lt. Cmdr. Bobby Thompson stole the name and title, and authorities said they still do not know his real name.

If it were not for Tampa Bay Times' Jeff Testerman and John Martin who exposed his operation in a series of articles, Thompson would probably still be in business. As is often the case, federal and state regulators jumped in only when it made headlines.

Even after Testerman and Martin did much of the legwork, the regulators missed several opportunities to nab Thompson. The Internal Revenue Service approved the group's tax-exempt status in just 33 days.  As one study shows the IRS approves nearly 98 percent of applications for tax-exempt status in a review process that is cursory at best. As the Navy Veterans reported in tax returns regulators still took no interest. Thompson and the Navy Veterans managed to operate in the open without a hint of concern from state or federal regulators. Testerman and Martin found no evidence that members of the national board of directors or state officers listed on the association's website even existed. 

After a nationwide hunt, U.S. marshals found Thompson coming home from a bar late in Portland, Ore., and took him into custody without incident. 

National and state offices of the U.S. Navy Veterans Association were UPS mail drops, and little money went to veterans. Thompson contributed nearly $200,000 to political candidates in Florida and across the country. Several years ago, he passed security clearance and had his picture taken with former President Bush when Bush was still in office. (link)

Nonprofit Imperative gathers its information principally from public documents...some of which are directly quoted. Virtually all cited are in some phase of criminal proceedings; some have not been charged, however. Cites in various media: Featured in print, broadcast, and online media outlets, including: Vermont Public Radio, Miami Herald, National Public Radio, Huffington Post, The Sun News, Atlanta Journal Constitution, Wall Street Journal (Profile, News and Photos), FOX2, ABC Spotlight on the News, WWJ Radio, Ethics World, Aspen Philanthropy Newsletter, Harvard Business Review, Current Affairs, The Chronicle of Philanthropy, St. Petersburg Times, B, USA Today Topics, ,, Responsive Philanthropy Magazine, New York Times...and many more • Nonprofits: On the Brink (iUniverse, 2006)
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