ASHTABULA — Ashtabula native Jodi Andes’ newly released true-crime book, “Master of Deceit,” shows how a con man bankrolled politicians on the backs of veterans and breached the White House.
Andes, an Ashtabula High School Class of 1989 graduate, said this is the story behind John Donald Cody — the man responsible for one of the largest scams against American veterans in history, which, oddly, is not his worst offense.
“It is and was a fascinating case and solved only thanks to the incredible work done by law enforcement,” she said. “Their work led to Bobby Thompson’s arrest in 2012 and U.S. Marshal Pete Elliott, who is the U.S. Marshal over all of northern Ohio, who discovered Thompson’s real identity — John Donald Cody, a former military intelligence officer for the Army and a Harvard Law School graduate who spent many years working as a spy with a federal agency that was so clandestine the agency was never identified in Cody’s military records.”
Andes, who lives in Columbus with her two sons, worked most of her career in journalism and honed her investigative skills at The Columbus Dispatch until being brought on as senior investigator at the Ohio Attorney General’s Office. Assigned to the Bobby Thompson/U.S. Navy Veterans Association scam, she later became a licensed private investigator before returning to journalism to serve as a producer of an investigative team at WBNS-10TV. She now works in government communications.
“Master of Deceit” tells the story of how Cody used proceeds from this fraud to bankroll politicians instead of helping veterans. Ultimately, he became so well known in political circles that he received an invitation to the White House. Yet no one — not even the U.S. Secret Service — noticed Thompson was using a stolen ID. If they had, they would have realized Cody was wanted for more consequential offenses and why his time in the Oval Office is one of the most significant breaches in White House history.
Andes takes readers through the meanderings of Cody’s decades on the run, his capture, and the startling revelation that perhaps some federal officials never wanted him caught.
Cody grew up in New Jersey and had a career full of promise after graduating in 1972 from Harvard Law School. His military career was limited to Army Military Intelligence, and was so clandestine, that records simply show Cody was assigned to an unnamed “proponent agency” and given top secret clearance. But after 13 years in intelligence, Cody snapped and disappeared.
When he resurfaced, he began a series of scams that would last more than 25 years. His most notable crimes were those he committed using the alias Lieutenant Commander Bobby Thompson — the face of a military and veterans’ support group, the U.S. Navy Veterans Association. The charity had been approved to solicit in 41 states without anyone noticing there were no real offices, and only fake members and directors on their board. The association collected more than $100 million before the ruse was discovered by a reporter in St. Petersburg, Fla.
It would take years for a special task force to unravel enough of the mystery to track Thompson down. When they discovered his real identity, his entrance into the White House became significantly more surprising.
For many of the years he claimed to be Thompson, including while he was in the White House. A wanted poster shows Cody was sought for questioning about espionage, though the FBI never said why.
“Here we are now 10 years later after the fraud was discovered and Bobby Thompson will spend his life in prison thanks to the work of the U.S. Marshals,” Andes said. “The book reveals new information in the case, and how there is more to be discovered. There is still the issue of what intelligence agency did Cody work for? And did that training help? Did he get other assistance anywhere? He created this 100 million charity from nothing. And where are millions that have never been found?”
Early reviews have called “Master of Deceit” compelling and “fast-paced” book that “reads more like a novel.” The book is available on Amazon — paperback, $16.95, or $9.99 on Kindle.