Portland — U.S. marshals in Ohio are trying to identify a fugitive captured in Portland this week suspected of swindling Americans coast to coast out of nearly $100 million intended for Navy veterans.
Investigators began to widely distribute photos of their suspect Friday after they ran his fingerprints through a national database and came back with no matches, said Peter Elliott, the U.S. marshal for northern Ohio. For now, he said, their suspect has invoked his right under the Constitution not to make any statements, and he has signed booking papers with an “X.”
“Somebody out there knows who this guy is,” Elliott said Friday afternoon by phone, pointing out there is reward money for the dark-haired suspect with the droopy soul patch. “We need you to call us.”
The man known as Bobby Charles Thompson was suspected of creating a Tampa, Fla.-based charity called the United States Naval Veterans Association, which is suspected of bilking donors out of nearly $100 million. The bulk of donations vanished, marshals say. And, after authorities in Ohio secured a criminal indictment against “Bobby Thompson” in 2010, so did he.
Members of an Ohio-based fugitive task force bird-dogged their suspect. Tips poured in after the case was featured on the TV show “America’s Most Wanted,” and they found their fugitive’s tracks in New York, Florida, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Mexico and elsewhere.
Their suspect was carrying wallets with the identifications of three men — Yazzie Anderson, Alan Lacy and Kenneth Morsette — when he was arrested in front of a Northeast Portland home where he was renting a room, according to a criminal affidavit filed in the Multnomah County Courthouse. Phony drivers license photos in those wallets all depicted the man pursuers knew as “Bobby Thompson.”
Authorities in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, indicted him for a second time under that name on Wednesday, although investigators say the real Bobby Thompson lives in Seattle. Their suspect faces charges that include unlawful flight to avoid prosecution, identity fraud, aggravated theft, money laundering and tampering with records.
Marshals flew their suspect back to Ohio on Thursday, where prosecutors will move forward with charges even if they don’t learn the man’s true identity, Elliott said.
Deputy U.S. Marshal William Boldin, who had tracked the fugitive’s movements for months, flew to Portland when he learned his suspect had been sighted hanging out in bars on the city’s northeast side. He found his quarry drinking a beer Monday night at Biddy McGraw’s, an Irish pub on Northeast Glisan Street at 60th Avenue.
Boldin’s team tailed their suspect to a house at 600 N.E. 72nd St., where he was renting a bedroom under the name Don Morsette, according to a search warrant affidavit released by Multnomah County authorities on Friday. They arrested him outside the house and obtained a search warrant.
Investigators turned up evidence in the bedroom that appears to indicate their suspect was the boss of the Florida-based charity scam. They seized a computer bag full of charity paperwork, a Toshiba laptop, an Android tablet, nine thumb drives, miscellaneous financial documents, and papers full of passwords, phone numbers and documents regarding printer-ink company SwiftInk, according to papers documenting the search.
Police also searched their suspect’s clothing and a backpack. One of the wallets he carried held a business card for Rose City Self Storage, at 111 S.E. Belmont St. Someone had jotted the access code to unit 646 on the back of the card. Investigators found two suitcases in the storage space. One was full of birth certificates, according to court records, and the other choked with $981,650 in cash.
Marshals hauled their suspect into Portland’s federal courthouse Tuesday, where a magistrate approved a warrant to return him to Ohio. A grand jury in Cuyahoga County had first indicted him in the charity scam in 2010, along with Blanca Contreras, his accused accomplice. Contreras was sentenced last summer to five years in prison for her role in the fraud scheme.