John Donald Cody is the only man ever known to gain entry into the Oval Office using a stolen identity – and did so while being sought by the FBI for espionage. His is a bizarre little-known tale of intrigue that includes U.S. veterans being defrauded of more than $100 million.
And it is a case in which the U.S. government still refuses to provide answers.
Cody’s story began to unfold when he was finally arrested in 2013 after more than 25 years on the run.
Cody started his career with the Army in Military Intelligence after graduating from Harvard Law School in 1972. His military records detail that he was had top secret clearance and was loaned to a “proponent federal agency,” which is never named. And though military records show he served in the Reserves, the records don’t show him ever serving active duty, other than boot camp.
Still, it wasn’t until after his honorable discharge in 1985 when the intrigue truly began.
That’s when Cody began using stolen identities and scamming Americans. His biggest thefts came while he used the alias Lt. Commander Bobby Thompson. “Thompson” claimed to run an organization called the U.S. Navy Veterans that turned out to be as fake as he was.
Of course, Americans didn’t know this and in a post 9–11 world, donated generously. The association collected more than $100 million in 10 years, largely from $15 and $25 donations at a time.
Veterans never saw the money. Thompson instead funneled it to Republican politicians while he lived in one of Tampa, Fla.’s poorest neighborhoods in an apartment that lacked any modern-day basic amenities including air conditioning.
Thompson’s on the books and off the book donations gained him access to the nation’s top Republican leaders, including President George W. Bush several times.
His story is being told in a book before publishers now called Master of Deceit. The book reveals many new facts, including reasons why Cody’s CIA claims could be believed. The book also shares new details as the author is the only person to interview Cody.
Federal records show the FBI had been looking into Cody by the year 2000. The FBI began asking for the public’s help in 2003 to locate Cody offering $50,000 saying he was wanted to be questioned for espionage.
Yet the bureau never had Cody’s fingerprints added to the national database, greatly reducing the chances of him ever being caught. This allowed Cody to continue using the Thompson alias, scam Americans in the name of veterans and have continued access to our nation’s leaders.
Interestingly, though, the FBI wasn’t the only federal agency familiar with Cody. The CIA collected records on him as early as 1973. One document, declassified by the CIA in 2001, refers to settlement from an auto accident. The parties of the crash are redacted, but the document is saved under Cody’s name.
The document offers no explanation of why this was kept, though it does show Cody as a partner in the law firm that handled the claim. (It’s worth noting, though, that no other partners in the firm can be shown to have a CIA file.)
The FBI and CIA refuse to comment or release any records. That only heightens the mysteries surrounding Cody.
Consider, what espionage acts would Cody have taken part in for the FBI to lead a public campaign to find him? And if the government feared he was spying against our country why weren’t his fingerprints in the national database to help ensure he could one day be caught?
And why after the U.S. Navy Veterans Association scam was discovered and Cody’s White House access discovered, were security protocols changed?
More security changes can be linked to reaction from when Tareq and Michaele Salahi breached a White House state dinner than when Cody – a wanted spy – was welcomed into the Oval Office.
Our nation has enough unknown threats and security risks -to ignore those we know exist.
Yet, other than the efforts from the state of Ohio started by former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray to punish Cody for defrauding Ohioans, no one looked into why he was sought, who worked with him, and if he was being protected.
Getting answers to these questions is the reason for the book and why I think Cody is – at least for now – the most mysterious man to have lived.