Master of Deceit featured in Sunday’s Columbus Dispatch

Master of Deceit was highlighted in The Columbus Dispatch as their Sunday feature today, May 17, 2020.

Dispatch Reporter Nancy Gilson spotlights how the book was eight years in making to show how a con man used a fake charity for veterans to funnel money to politicians and gain access to scores of top Republican politicians, though he was a wanted man. Those donations earned him access to President George W. Bush on multiple occasions, including once in the Oval Office.  No one at the White House or in Secret Service realized the man they welcomed was using a stolen ID or that he was wanted at the time by the FBI.

In the Q & A, Gilson takes a deeper look at the question of whether John Donald Cody was CIA and a glimpse into the dozens of aliases, which kept Cody ahead of law enforcement for more than 15 years.  In questioning the author, Gilson said she found the book “fascinating.

Attempts to Sway Elections Are Nothing New

FBI wanted Poster on John D Cody

Mueller’s investigation into whether the President or members of his team colluded with Russians during the 2016 election is unprecedented on many levels.

However, attempts to sway American elections, is unfortunately, not.

There is a little-known case of where the American public was defrauded for more than a decade so elections could be influenced. In 2013, a man known as Lt. Cmdr. Bobby Thompson was convicted in Cleveland, Ohio, on list of money laundering, stolen identity, and theft charges.

Thompson was his cover – a stolen identity he used to conceal his real name and background as a former American spy; “Thompson” was born John Donald Cody, who became a former U.S. Army Military Intelligence Officer and Harvard Law School graduate. His military record, though, omits much about his career – including which federal agency he worked for and the units he worked with.

For more than 10 years, Cody used the Thompson ID and to scam through a charity called the U.S. Navy Veterans Association. It was as fake as he was. This group claimed to care for American’s veterans and military; meanwhile Americans donated more than $100 million, mostly from $10 – $25 donations at a time.

The money never made it to veterans.

Instead, the money was funneled to Republican politicians and “Thompson” reaped the benefits. He was pictured with a parade of national Republican leaders and was even welcomed into the White House for a private gathering in the Oval Office with 43 – President George W. Bush.

It wasn’t until months after his arrest in 2012 when federal officials realized that “Thompson” who was wanted for questioning by the FBI on espionage and other crimes had been allowed to buddy up next to the President.

Thompson/Cody’s conviction gained brief national attention on TV shows like “American Greed” and in the national press before fading into history. But a book being considered by publishers about Cody/Thompson’s life and crimes provides a reminder on why history shouldn’t be ignored.

The book, Master of Deceit, examines Cody’s claims that he was a former CIA officer. Prosecutors with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office brushed aside the claims but Master of Deceit, raises new reasons why Cody’s claims may be believed.

The book doesn’t defend Cody’s crimes. Rather it lays out facts discovered about Cody’s military history, his crimes and questions why the investigation never extended beyond John Donald Cody.

National lawyer Mark Zaid whose work has focused on free speech and government corruption is assisting in efforts to force the release of additional federal records which may shine light on Cody’s past. Thus far, the FBI and CIA have refused to comment on Cody or release records.

Zaid’s work has garnered national attention in the past including a successful lawsuit against Libya for the 1988 bombing of flight Pam Am 103 and in gaining a court-ordered injunction which shut down the Department of
Defense’s mandatory anthrax vaccination program for two years.

Master of Deceit raises many of the same questions about Cody/Thompson that are being raised in Mueller’s investigation now. Did Bobby Thompson’s efforts influence the election? Who was working with him? How can the nation prevent breaches like this from happening again?

The nation never learned from Cody.

States went on regulating charities much the same way they always had before learning that more than 40 states approved of the completely fake U.S. Navy Veterans. National security didn’t change even though Cody – a spy wanted for questioning in espionage and other crimes had been given access to the President on multiple occasions.

In fact, more national scrutiny was given to when a couple – the Tareq and Michaele Salahi – crashed a White House state dinner than when a wanted spy was allowed into the Oval Office.

Winston Churchill famously said, those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Isn’t time we learned?

Most Mysterious Man Alive

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.