United States Navy Veterans Association

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United States Navy Veterans Association
TypeVeterans' Organization
Founded2002 (First tax filing)
HeadquartersWashington, DC
Key people"Bobby Thompson" (false name)
Area servedUnited States
Revenue$22.4 million (2008)
WebsiteFormerly www.navyvets.org, which linked to http://navyvets.tripod.com/
DissolvedCeased fundraising in 2010
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United States Navy Veterans Association
TypeVeterans' Organization
Founded2002 (First tax filing)
HeadquartersWashington, DC
Key people"Bobby Thompson" (false name)
Area servedUnited States
Revenue$22.4 million (2008)
WebsiteFormerly www.navyvets.org, which linked to http://navyvets.tripod.com/
DissolvedCeased fundraising in 2010

The United States Navy Veterans Association (USNVA) was a tax-exempt Veterans Organization that claimed to have a national headquarters in Washington, D.C. It claimed that its purpose was to support the U.S. Navy, and to assist veterans and members of the U.S. Armed Forces, and their families.

The Association claimed to be a national organization with 43 U.S. chapters and over 66,000 members.

USNVA was the subject of recent investigative reporting, which resulted in criminal and administrative investigations in several states and the removal of its listing from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website. The organization's national headquarters in Washington DC proved to be a rented post office box, rather than an actual physical office location. The true identity of the USNVA leader, "Bobby Thompson," is not known, because that identity was stolen from someone unaffiliated with the USNVA. USNVA operations have ceased and, after a two year search, the man known as "Bobby Thompson" was arrested on April 30, 2012 in Portland, Oregon.


Organization overview

The USNVA was a tax-exempt organization headquartered in Washington, D.C.[1] It received tax-exempt status from the IRS as a 501(c)(19) veterans' organization.

USNVA claimed to be the current form of charitable groups that date back to 1927, although the USNVA itself first filed with the Internal Revenue Service in 2002. The Association claimed 66,000 members.[2]

The Association's stated mission, in summary, was to: Support the U.S. Navy; provide assistance to war veterans, members of the U.S. Armed Forces, and their families; and "the support of legislative action to provide to our service personnel, veterans, and their dependents, widows and orphans, the remuneration and benefits they truly deserve."[3]

According to the Association's website, there were 41 state Chapters, along with Chapters in Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico and Divisions in Panama and the Philippines.[4] However, the New Mexico Attorney General claims that the addresses given for the New Mexico chapter are for vacant lots.[5]

The USNVA website listed the MacMurray, Petersen & Shuster LLP law firm in New Albany, Ohio as its General Counsel; Legislative Associates, Inc. of Stillwater, Minnesota as its Legislative and Public Policy Counsel, and Rubin & Associates, P.A. of St. Petersburg, Florida as its Special Counsel.[6] It also hired additional lobbyists to gain the right to solicit in Virginia.

Investigative reporting

After a six-month investigation, the St. Petersburg Times published a special about the USNVA in March, 2010. The report made a number of allegations about the Association.[7][8] These include that:

Times reporters spoke with Mr. Thompson at his residence once. On a later visit in December, 2009, his leased residence was found vacant; according to the landlord, no forwarding address was provided.[10]

In response, the USNVA's attorney denied all of the Times' assertions, calling the investigation "flawed," and saying USNVA officers did not want to speak to the Times reporters because of their "disreputable tactics and stories and biases."[8]

The American Institute of Philanthropy testified before Congress about inefficiency and wrongdoing at veterans charities.[11] AIP features USNVA in a cover article for the December 2010 publication of its Charity Rating Guide & Watchdog Report: Phantom Charity Takes Flight, Leaves Veterans Stranded.[12] According to the article, the misused money was "unlikely be recovered and used to help deserving veterans.”[12]

Virginia contributions and exemption

On 23 February 2009, the Virginia Division of Consumer Protection barred USNVA from soliciting for donations because it had failed to register as a charity and to make the necessary financial disclosures.[13][14] Samuel F. Wright, a Washington-based lawyer, was retained to get the USNVA the right to solicit in Virginia, and he worked with a man who claimed to be Bobby Thompson, the Chief Financial Officer of USNVA.[15] In March 2010, the St. Petersburg Times published a series indicating that the USNVA was a one-man operation fradulently soliciting money as a veterans' charity.[8][10] When asked by the St. Petersburg Times whether Wright had ever spoken with anyone at the USNVA other than Thompson, Wright refused to answer citing attorney-client privilege.[8] In May 2009, Wright met with then-Attorney General Bill Mims to discuss requesting an exemption from the requirement to register, but on 18 August 2009, the USNVA received a letter stating that the Attorney General concurred with not granting the organization an exemption.[14]

Following that letter, Thompson, who was a Florida resident, began to donate to Virginia politicians.[14] In 2009, Mr. Thompson made $78,375 in political contributions. $67,500 was directed to Virginia politicians, with the largest share being $55,500 in contributions to the successful campaign of Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R). Thompson was Cuccinelli's second-largest campaign donor.[10][13] Out of the $67,500 Virginia contributions, Thompson made only one $1,000 donation to a Democratic candidate.[16]

When questions were initially raised about USNVA, all other Virginia politicians gave the contributions from Thompson to other veterans' organizations, but Cuccinelli initially did not, despite calls from Virginia Democrats. Cuccinelli's spokesman said "if Mr. Thompson was convicted of wrongdoing relative to the misappropriation of funds, and contributions to our campaign came from money that was supposed to go to active duty military or veterans, we would donate those contributions to military support organizations here in Virginia."[13] A month later in June, a Cuccinelli spokesman said $55,500 would be set aside in a restricted account pending the outcome of the investigation into Thompson and USNVA.[17]

Thompson also made an unsolicited $1,000 contribution to Virginia Senator Patsy Ticer (D) in 2009.[16] Wright later contacted Ticer's office, asking for assistance to make it easier for the Association to operate in Virginia. Ticer introduced Virginia Senate Bill 563 that, among other purposes, exempted tax-exempt veterans' organizations such as the USNVA from having to register with Virginia regulators. The bill was unanimously approved by the Virginia House and Senate. After receiving the Thompson contributions, Cuccinelli met with Wright on 15 February 2010 to discuss the legislation which had passed the State Senate.[18] After learning about the March St. Petersburg Times reports, Ticer asked Governor Bob McDonnell (R), who received a $5,000 contribution from Thompson, to veto the bill she sponsored. On 11 April 2010, Wright asked Ticer to withdraw her veto request.[19] However, the Governor signed the bill on 12 April 2010. The new law took effect on 1 July 2010. Both Senator Ticer and Governor McDonnell have given the contributions from Thompson to other veterans groups.[13]

Removal from VA website

U.S. Senator Jim Webb (D-VA) wrote a letter to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs asking for the removal of the U.S. Navy Veterans Association's listing from the VA website of veterans organizations, citing recent media reports and official investigations. The VA removed the listing by the next day, noting that listing an organization does not constitute an endorsement.[20]

Official investigations

Officials in at least five states – New Mexico,[5][21] Ohio, Hawaii, Missouri, and Florida – investigated the Association. The USNVA was banned from soliciting in at least the states of New Mexico and Hawaii.[22][23]

In August 2010, Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray announced that a nation-wide arrest warrant had been issued for Bobby Thompson, who had stolen the identity and Social Security Number of a victim who was not connected to the USNVA. Cordray stated, “We know he bilked Ohioans out of at least $1.9 million, and we estimate that nationally he collected at least $20 million.”[24] After a two year search, the man known as "Bobby Thompson" was arrested on April 30, 2012 in Portland, Oregon. His true identity is still not known.[25]

Prosecutions and convictions

In June 2011, Blanca Contreras, 39, of Tampa, Florida, pleaded guilty to engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, aggravated theft, money laundering, and tampering with records in connection with her four-year involvement with the organization. On 10 August 2011 she was sentenced to five years in prison and faces deportation to her native Mexico upon her release. In exchange for her guilty plea, her daughters, Stacie, 24, and Nancy, 21, who had also been involved with the organization, received immunity.[26]

The man known as "Bobby Thompson" pleaded not guilty in early May to 22 charges related to the alleged scam. He remains in jail without bond, and refuses to reveal his true identity to investigators or to the court.[27]


  1. ^ "Search for Charities, Online Version of Publication 78". http://www.irs.gov/app/pub-78/searchFromResults.do?nameSearchTypeStarts=false&names=United+States+Navy+Veterans+Association&nameSearchTypeAll=true&city=&state=All...&country=USA&deductibility=all&dispatchMethod=search&searched.nameSearchTypeStarts=false&searched.names=United+States+Navy+Veterans+Association&searched.nameSearchTypeAll=false&searched.city=&searched.state=All...&searched.country=USA&searched.deductibility=all&searched.sortColumn=name&searched.indexOfFirstRow=0&searched.isDescending=false&submitName=Search. Retrieved 23 May 2010. 
  2. ^ Testerman; Martin (21 March 2010). "Many names, many claims ... many dead ends". St. Petersburg Times. http://www.tampabay.com/news/military/article1081217.ece. Retrieved 23 May 2010. 
  3. ^ "USVNA Mission Statement". http://www.navyvets.org/id77.html. Retrieved 23 May 2010. 
  4. ^ "USNVA State and Overseas Chapters and Divisions". http://www.navyvets.org/id81.html. Retrieved 23 May 2010. 
  5. ^ a b Furlow, Bryant (7 April 2010). "AG orders Navy Veterans Assn. to halt fundraising in NM". New Mexico Independent. http://newmexicoindependent.com/50924/ag-orders-navy-veterans-assn-to-halt-fundraising-in-nm. Retrieved 6 September 2010. 
  6. ^ "left column". http://www.navyvets.org/. Retrieved 13 September 2010. 
  7. ^ "U.S. Navy Veterans Association: Under the radar". St. Petersburg Times. http://www.tampabay.com/specials/2010/reports/navy-veterans-association/. Retrieved 23 May 2010. 
  8. ^ a b c d Testerman; Martin (21 March 2010). "Multimillion-dollar nonprofit charity for Navy veterans steeped in secrecy". St. Petersburg Times. http://www.tampabay.com/news/military/article1081213.ece. Retrieved 23 May 2010. 
  9. ^ "BBB Wise Giving Report for United States Navy Veterans Association". http://www.bbb.org/charity-reviews/national/veterans-and-military/united-states-navy-veterans-association-in-washington-dc-1708. Retrieved 23 May 2010. 
  10. ^ a b c Testerman; Martin (22 March 2010). "Charity leader's sideline: politics". St. Petersburg Times. http://www.tampabay.com/news/military/article1081228.ece. Retrieved 23 May 2010. 
  11. ^ http://www.charitywatch.org/AIP-Veterans-Testimony-07.PDF
  12. ^ a b http://www.charitywatch.org/articles/US_Navy_Veterans_Association.html
  13. ^ a b c d Casey; Sluss (16 May 2010). "Fla. contributor to Va. campaigns raises questions". The Roanoke Times. http://www.roanoke.com/247014. Retrieved 23 May 2010. 
  14. ^ a b c "Nonprofit under investigation wins registration exemption in Virginia". tampabay.com. 22 May 2010. http://www.tampabay.com/news/politics/nonprofit-under-investigation-wins-registration-exemption-in-virginia/1096783. Retrieved 22 September 2010. 
  15. ^ "United States Navy Veterans Association". http://www.navyvets.org/. Retrieved 22 September 2010. 
  16. ^ a b Sluss, Michael (18 May 2010). "McDonnell to give away $5K from Navy vets charity". Roanoke Times. http://hamptonroads.com/2010/05/mcdonnell-give-away-5k-navy-vets-charity. Retrieved 22 June 2010. 
  17. ^ Helderman, Rosalind (19 May 2010). "Cuccinelli will open special account to hold funds from troubled charity director". The Washington Post. http://voices.washingtonpost.com/virginiapolitics/2010/06/cuccinelli_will_open_account_t.html. Retrieved 23 June 2010. 
  18. ^ Sluss, Michael (27 May 2010). "Staffer: Cuccinelli made no pledge to Navy Vets". Roanoke Times. http://www.roanoke.com/news/roanoke/wb/248258. Retrieved 12 September 2010. 
  19. ^ Dan Casey and Michael Sluss (16 May 2010). "Fla. contributor to Va. campaigns raises questions". Roanoke Times. http://www.roanoke.com/247014. 
  20. ^ Helderman, Rosalind (19 May 2010). "Veterans Administration removes Navy Veterans Association from directory". The Washington Post. http://voices.washingtonpost.com/virginiapolitics/2010/05/veterans_administration_remove.html. Retrieved 23 May 2010. 
  21. ^ "Letter barring USNVA from soliciting in New Mexico". 1 April 2010. http://www.tampabay.com/specials/2010/PDFs/newmexiconavyvets040710/ipra%20navy%20vet23.pdf. Retrieved 6 September 2010. 
  22. ^ Cole, William (23 May 2010). "Exploiting patriotism for profit". The Honolulu Advertiser. http://www.honoluluadvertiser.com/article/20100523/COLUMNISTS32/5230370/Exploiting+patriotism+for+profit. Retrieved 23 May 2010. [dead link]
  23. ^ Furlow, Bryant (18 May 2010). "Charity under investigation in NM is at center of brewing campaign money scandal in Virginia". The New Mexico Independent. http://newmexicoindependent.com/54686/charity-under-investigation-in-nm-is-at-center-of-brewing-campaign-money-scandal-in-virginia. Retrieved 23 May 2010. 
  24. ^ Cornwell, Lisa (5 August 2010). "Ohio AG: Navy vets group leader stole identity". Associated Press. http://www.navytimes.com/news/2010/08/ap_navy_vet_fundraising_charges_080510/. Retrieved 5 September 2010. 
  25. ^ Hundley (1 May 2012). "Bobby Thompson, fugitive from Navy Vets charity, caught on West Coast". St. Petersburg Times. http://www.tampabay.com/news/business/article1227828.ece. Retrieved 16 May 2012. 
  26. ^ Hundley, Kris, "Woman Gets 5 Years In Veterans Charity Scam", Norfolk Virginian-Pilot, 12 August 2011.
  27. ^ Lach (14 May 2012). "Even Behind Bars, Infamous Scammer’s Identity Remains A Mystery". Talking Points Memo. http://tpmmuckraker.talkingpointsmemo.com/2012/05/bobby_thompson_us_navy_veterans_association_scam.php. Retrieved 16 May 2012. 

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