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Gear not following other politicians in returning U.S. Navy Vet donation

Rosalind Helderman

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli recently joined other state politicians in donating campaign contributions he received from the Florida director of a questionable veterans charity--leaving only Del. Tom Gear (R-Hampton) among officials who have not yet relinquished donations from the man.

And, it appears that's how things will remain, at least for the moment. Gear said Tuesday that he does not plan to give away the $2,000 he received from the man last summer, despite an announcement by the Ohio Attorney General's office last week that they have issued an arrest warrant for the man who had been using the name Bobby Thompson, alleging that he has committed identity fraud.

The man known as Bobby Thompson, a director of the U.S. Navy Veterans Association, has given thousands in campaign contributions to Republicans around the country. Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray now calls the group a "sham charity" that does not appear to have given veterans the millions it collected.

And says the John Doe stole the identity--including birth date and social security number--of the real Bobby Thompson. The man has now disappeared--earning him a photo spread on Cordray's Web site with the caption "Have you seen this man?"

Unlike Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) and Cuccinelli, Gear said he does not plan to donate the $2,000 he received from the man--at least, not yet. He has not been convicted of a crime, Gear noted.

"I'd like to see it all cleared up first," he said. "It'd be something if the man came out and said 'yes I'm Bobby Thompson,' and proved everyone wrong...What does it hurt to wait a little longer?"

Gear said the man's disappearance was not a good sign but said it's possible he does not know authorities are looking for him.

"Things are not always what they seem," he said. "Maybe he's been killed in a car wreck."

And he offered this advice to authorities: "They should put him on America's Most Wanted."

Meantime, the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Affairs continues to investigate the group, spokeswoman Elaine Lidholm said this week. She noted that the U.S. Navy Veterans Association has not applied for an exemption of the state's charity reporting requirements.

Representatives working with the group convinced Virginia lawmakers this year to pass a law exempting veterans charities from annual registration. At the time, they claimed the exemption would help a variety of charities. But Lidholm said no other group has applied for the exemption since the law went into effect July 1.

By Rosalind Helderman  |  August 10, 2010; 11:39 AM ET
Categories:  Ken Cuccinelli , Rosalind Helderman  
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