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Google search reveals true identity of suspect in Navy charity scam

By Alan Duke, CNN
updated 4:56 PM EDT, Mon October 1, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • "Bobby Thompson" is John Donald Cody, a fugitive Arizona lawyer, officials say
  • Cody, now 65, disappeared in 1984 as IRS agents were investigating him for fraud
  • Cody allegedly founded a fake charity that stole $2 million intended for veterans
  • "Thank goodness for Google," U.S. marshal says

(CNN) -- A bored U.S. marshal using Google connected an alleged scam artist arrested this year under an alias to a lawyer who disappeared decades ago before he was indicted on federal fraud charges.

The suspect in a fake charity scam that stole millions in donations intended for Navy veterans is also wanted by the FBI for questioning in a spy case, federal officials said.

When U.S. marshals arrested "Bobby Thompson" five months ago, they said they knew he was using a fake name. He's been held in the Cuyahoga County, Ohio, jail since then.

"We always knew there was a reason that 'Thompson' signed his name as 'Mr. X' and did not want to be identified," U.S. Marshal Pete Elliott said Monday. "We now know why."

His real name John Donald Cody, who graduated from Harvard Law School in 1972, served as a captain in the U.S. Army's military intelligence unit, worked as a lawyer in Arizona and speaks "many, many different foreign languages," Elliott said.

Cody, now 65, disappeared in 1984 as IRS agents were investigating him in a case that led to his indictment in 1987 on four counts, including making false statements to an investment brokerage firm, taking stolen funds across state lines and lying on a loan application, according to court documents.

But time and technology caught up with Cody when Elliott opened his web browser and began a series of Google searches.

"I happened to be a little bored that Friday afternoon," Elliott said Monday. "Thank goodness for Google."

He searched for cold-case fraud fugitives with ties to military, he said. Google images yielded a 1969 photo of a man with a pompadour hairstyle in a military uniform and several later photos of the same man with a similar haircut, he said.

Both Cody and Thompson favored the pompadour, he said.

"In our profession, one and one always equals two, and I believe man is always a creature of habit, no matter what identity he takes," Elliott said.

He also found an FBI wanted flyer for a cold-case fraud fugitive wanted since 1987. It was from 1987 when the FBI began searching for Cody.

Since Cody fled before he was arrested, the FBI had no fingerprints to compare to Thompson. But the military did, and they matched, Elliott said.

The "Thompson" case drew a lot of attention in May when "Thompson" was arrested in Oregon after a two-year nationwide manhunt during which he was placed on the list of "America's Most Wanted" fugitives. Investigators found almost $1 million in a storage unit the arrest.

Cody allegedly founded a fake charity -- the U.S. Navy Veterans Association -- through which he collected nearly $2 million from donors in 41 states in a telemarketing scam between 2005 and 2010, authorities said.

While the government acknowledged a possible connection between Cody and a FBI espionage investigation, no other details have been disclosed.

CNN's Carol Cratty contributed to this report.

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