U.S. Navy Veterans Association accused of funneling donations to GOP

United States Navy Veterans AssociationThe Ohio Attorney General's office has asked a court for permission to seize donations made to the U.S. Navy Veterans Association charity, whose home state of Florida is trying to shut it down, and whose founder disappeared after revelations that he made significant political donations to Republicans in Virginia.

Earlier this month, Consumer Ally reported that Ohio asked for a cease-and-desist order against the purported veterans' charity for providing false and misleading information in its registration. The charity's counsel, however, responded that it would not abide by the order. In return, the Attorney General's office wants to intercept donations as they arrive to the charity's two Ohio-based post office mail drops.

"The U.S. Navy Veterans Association is a group that claims to be a legitimate charitable organization," Ohio AG Richard Cordray said in a June 24 press conference. "However, we have every reason to believe now that it is a phony outfit that has simply been using the good name of our armed forces and veterans organizations in order to cheat Ohioans and other patriotic Americans."

Florida state officials, meanwhile, say the charity is a danger to consumers and that it should immediately cease operations.

Cordray said the organization collected $1.9 million in Ohio between July 2003 and July 2009. Investigators in the Attorney General's office have been unable to locate the three people listed on the registration documents. The group's only known organizer, Bobby Thompson, has disappeared.

"The closer we look at this organization, the more outrageous its conduct appears, " Cordray said. "While very little concrete evidence is available how those funds were spent helping vets or their families, a great deal of information is available about political contributions made by Thompson personally to candidates or through the political action committee he created and to which he was the sole contributor, NAVPAC."

In Virginia, state House Democrats are urging an investigation by police in addition to one already begun by the Virginia Office of Consumer Affairs. Some elected Virgina officials who did receive donations from Thompson or NAVPAC have donated that same amount to legitimate veterans' charities.

Virginia's Attorney General, Ken Cuccinelli, got two checks from Thompson totaling $55,000, making him the largest recipient of the charity executive's largesse. Though Cuccinelli reportedly resisted initially, he has said now that he would donate that amount to charity if Thompson was convicted of any wrongdoing. Although Cuccinelli, a conservative Republican, has not published a release about the veterans organization, he did push for stronger advocacy for veterans on June 25, a day after Cordray's announcement.

Cordray warns Ohioans to not contribute to the U.S. Navy Veterans Association any longer and encourages elected officials to follow the actions of Virginia's by matching donations to legitimate charities.

Consumer Ally's attempts to reach the Cincinnati office of the organization were unsuccessful.
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