Call Me Commander: A Former Intelligence Officer and the Journalists Who Uncovered His Scheme to Fleece America (MP3 CD)
When Lieutenant Commander Bobby Thompson surfaced in Tampa in 1998, it was as if he had fallen from the sky, providing no hint of his past life. Eleven years later, St. Petersburg Times investigative reporter Jeff Testerman visited the rundown duplex Thompson used as his home and the epicenter of his sixty-thousand-member charity, the US Navy Veterans Association. But something was amiss.
Bobby Thompson's charity's addresses were just maildrops, his members nonexistent, and his past a black hole. Yet, somehow, the commander had stood for photos with President George W. Bush, Senator John McCain, and other political luminaries. The USNVA, it turned out, was a phony charity where Thompson used pricey telemarketers, savvy lawyers, and political allies to swindle tens of millions from well-meaning donors.
After Testerman's story revealed that the nonprofit was a sham, the commander went on the run. US Marshals took up the hunt in 2011 and found themselves searching for an unnamed identity thief who they likened to a real-life Jason Bourne. When finally captured in 2012, Thompson was carrying multiple IDs and a key to a locker that held nearly $1 million in cash.
But, who was he? Eventually, investigators discovered he was John Donald Cody, a Harvard Law School graduate and former US Army intelligence officer who had been wanted since the 1980s on theft charges and for questioning in an espionage probe.
As Cody's decades as a fugitive came to an end, he claimed his charity was run at the behest of the Central Intelligence Agency. After reporting on the story for CNBC's American Greed in 2014, Daniel M. Freed dug into Cody's backstory--uncovering new information about his intelligence background and the evolution of his con.