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Published: Saturday, 9/21/2013 - Updated: 1 year ago

DeWine asked to step aside in scam probe

Dem running against him says attorney general accepted contribution from accused Florida man

BY JIM PROVANCE
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU CHIEF
Democrat David Pepper speaks to reporters at a news conference Friday  in Columbus. Mr. Pepper wants Mike DeWine to recuse himself from the case against a Florida man accused of running a scam charity. Democrat David Pepper speaks to reporters at a news conference Friday in Columbus. Mr. Pepper wants Mike DeWine to recuse himself from the case against a Florida man accused of running a scam charity.
ASSOCIATED PRESS Enlarge

COLUMBUS — The Democrat running for his job on Friday called on Attorney General Mike DeWine to step aside in the investigation of a Florida man accused of running a scam charity for Navy veterans and who generously gave to high-profile Republican politicians.

David Pepper, a former Hamilton County commissioner, said investigating John Donald Colby without looking into where the money he raised went would be like “investigating Watergate as a breaking and entering.”

Mr. Colby, who used the alias “Bobby C. Thompson,” is about to go on trial in Cuyahoga County for theft, money laundering, and other charges for using his fraudulent Florida-based Navy Veterans Association to bilk some $100 million from people who thought they were contributing to Navy veterans.

Mr. DeWine, whose office has served as special prosecutor in the investigation, received $1,000 from “Thompson” during his 2006 unsuccessful campaign for re-election as U.S. senator.

DeWine spokesman Dan Tierney said the attorney general has no intention or ethical obligation to recuse himself from the case. He said the “vigorous,” bipartisan prosecution did review the political contributions.

“[Democratic former Attorney General Richard Cordray] presented this case to a grand jury, which returned indictments for theft and money laundering against Thompson and his accomplices,” Mr. Tierney said. “Attorney General DeWine continued this prosecution when he took office and is proud of the collaborative work of the Attorney General’s Office and other state and federal law enforcement agencies to apprehend Thompson and prosecute him to the fullest extent of the law.”

Mr. Pepper, the only Democrat who’s announced plans to run against Mr. DeWine next year, accused the attorney general of “cleansing” the political ramifications from all public pronouncements involving the case.

“Why in the world is a person down in Florida taking charitable money and giving it to a whole lot of Ohio politicians?” Mr. Pepper asked. “Mike DeWine, we know, was one of the recipients.”

So were the likes of former President George W. Bush; former presidential contenders Mitt Romney, John McCain, and Michelle Bachmann, and even two of Mr. DeWine’s GOP predecessors as attorney general, Betty Montgomery and Jim Petro.

Ms. Montgomery, part of Mr. DeWine’s transition team when he first came into office, is also a partner in a Columbus area law firm that was hired by “Thompson.”

“All this money was raised for veterans, and there is so much money unaccounted for,” Mr. Pepper said.

“An actual vigorous prosecution of the case would not only get to the bottom of what it was all about and why all this money was being sent to Ohio politicians. My hope is that it identifies where a lot of this money went … so that we can take that money and get it back to the veterans …”

Contact Jim Provance at: jprovance@theblade.com or 614-221-0496.



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