CLEVELAND - A sham veterans charity collected $6,320,719 from Ohioans during a four-year period, according to the Ohio Attorney General's Office.
Registration statements seized from the U.S. Navy Veterans Association showed the charity collected the donations between 2007 and 2010. The donations were meant to go to U.S. Navy veterans, but the money was never delivered to veterans, according to the AG's office.
A key player in the charity, Blanca Contreras, pleaded guilty to four felony charges for her involvement in the charity in the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas last week.
Contreras pleaded guilty to money laundering, aggravated theft, tampering with records and engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity.
Brad Tammaro, the assistant Ohio attorney general who prosecuted the case, said Contreras signed documents saying she was the acting treasurer of the U.S. Navy Veterans Association.
Tammaro said the U.S. Navy Veterans Association used telemarketers to solicit donations in 41 states.
Prosecutors are still searching for Contreras' boss, a man known as Bobby Thompson. Tammaro said he was the mastermind of the bogus charity. He filed tax returns that claimed more than $20 million a year.
Tammaro said Thompson has not been seen since June 2010. Millions of dollars of donation money disappeared with him.
"We do not know where he is right now. If we did know, he would be standing in this courtroom," said Tammaro.
According to our Scripps Howard partners at WCPO in Cincinnati, the Attorney General's office said Thompson stole that name from a resident of Washington state but also used the name of an Indiana man, Ronnie D. Brittain, for a decade.
WCPO has reported Thompson diverted some donations to his own political contributions across the nation, including current attorney general Mike Dewine.
Tammaro said there is a nationwide manhunt under way for the man known as Bobby Thompson.
As part of her plea deal, Blanca Contreras is expected to cooperate with prosecutors. The Tampa woman faces up to 25 years in prison and will be sentenced August 3.
According to the Ohio Attorney General's Office, the U.S. Navy Veterans Association collected the identified amounts from people in Ohio:
April 29, 2010 - $1,181,196.00
April 28, 2009 - $1,199,656.00
March 25, 2008 - $2,792,645.00
April 17, 2007 - $1,147,222.00