Sunday, November 21, 2010

Suspected con man "Bobby Thompson" is now on 'America's Most Wanted'

Fugitive from justice gave tens of thousands of dollars to Minnesota Republicans, including Michele Bachmann and Norm Coleman, which likely came from charitable donations to "Thompson's" sham veterans organization.

By Karl Bremer

The man known as "Bobby Thompson" for years was the poster boy for Republican donors, spreading tens of thousands of dollars around to Michele Bachmann, Norm Coleman and Minnesota House Republicans, among others. Now, he's a poster boy of a different type - "Bobby" is featured on "America's Most Wanted."

The AMW site describes how St. Petersburg Times reporter Jeff Testerman happened on the trail of "Bobby Thompson" two years ago:

In 2008, a St. Petersburg Times reporter, Jeff Testerman, was looking into a local political story when he noticed the U.S. Navy Veterans Association was a contributor to a local county commissioner's campaign.

Seeking a quote from the group, Jeff made multiple calls, leaving multiple messages. But in six months of searching, despite 85 USNVA board members, they could only find one of them: Bobby Thompson.

A Happenstance Confrontation

Jeff made the quick trip over to Thompson's modest Ybor City home and saw Thompson pacing out in front of his home, talking on his cell phone. Jeff asked him a few questions for the story he was investigating, which had little to do with Thompson himself. But Thompson immediately got defensive, going off on a 30-minute diatribe accusing Jeff of using yellow journalism tactics.

A veteran investigative reporter for the Times, Jeff knew something was not right about Thompson, and he intended to find out what it was.

Jeff and his investigative team looked into the organization for six months, and he found a number of very odd things:

-The Association wouldn't disclose where the tens of millions of dollars went.

-The Times couldn't find any of the 83 people listed as board members and executives on the tax forms filed with the IRS to claim tax-exempt status.

-The Association's purported headquarters, at 1718 M St., Washington D.C, was little more than a rented mailbox at a UPS Store.

-Why did the director of a multi-million dollar charity organization live in a dilapidated duplex across from a cigar factory?

Jeff had many questions for the U.S. Navy Vets Association, and there were even more questions about Bobby Thompson himself. But he would learn that the more answers he got, the more questions it would raise.

AMW describes "Bobby Thompson" as 5'10", 200 lbs., brown hair and eyes, and says he often sports a beard and mustache, wears glasses and likes to drink tequila. "Bobby Thompson" is a stolen identity. The man known as "Bobby Thompson" also has used the alias "Ronnie Brittain."

No one knows who "Bobby Thompson" really is. He's been on the lam ever since the St. Petersburg Times investigation began and was last seen in a New York City hotel last June.

The Minnesota Connection

I came across "Bobby's" name while researching campaign contributions to Michele Bachmann's fat-cat fundraiser with former half-term Alaska governor Sarah Palin last April. Thompson donated $10,000 to Bachmann's campaign at that event. Further research on Thompson led to Testerman's investigative series and ultimately, an extensive series of articles published here and on on "Bobby's" and the U.S. Navy Veterans Association's questionable operations in Minnesota. That series has led to investigations by the Minnesota Attorney General and Minnesota Campaign Finance and Disclosure Board.

"Bobby's" last political contribution before he disappeared altogether appears to be $5,000 to Minnesota-based Patriot PAC, first reported on Ripple in Stillwater.

The story recently appeared on ABC's Nightly News.

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