CLEVELAND - A woman who admitted stealing nearly $500,000 meant for Navy veterans is going to prison. The donations came from good people looking to help, including from some in Cleveland.
Blanca Contreras spoke quietly in Cuyahoga county court Wednesday morning. She apologized for money laundering and three other felonies.
"I would like to express my deepest remorse for each and every victim that was involved due to my lack of knowledge, " Contreras told the judge.
Special prosecutor Brad Tammaro from the Ohio Attorney General's Office told NewsChannel5 Contreras cashed checks for more than $472,000 donated by people in Ohio to U.S. Navy veterans.
"Somebody that would normally be willing to help out and donate that kind of money is not going to donate anything because they think it's going to be a scam," said Tammaro.
Contreras was listed as acting treasurer for the U.S Navy Veterans Association. It's a charity prosecutors said was fake.
Blanca's boss, who called himself Bobby Thompson, amassed millions of dollars in 41 states around the country. He used telemarketers to solicit donations meant for vets, then he took the money and ran. He remains a wanted fugitive.
And local veterans organizations are feeling the sting. Sharon Mosher runs the Buckeye Chapter of paralyzed veterans of America. She said her charity was swindled by a shady telemarketer.
"Every person who takes money from charities have done terrible things," said Mosher.
And in an ironic twist to this story, "Thompson" used some of the charitable donations to make donations of his own to conservative Republicans, including Mike Dewine when he was in Gongress. Now, he's the attorney general prosecuting the case.
As for Contreras, she'll have the next five years in prison to think about the money she took from the veterans organizations.