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Democrat wants Ohio AG to hand off scam case

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A Democrat vying to be Ohio's attorney general said Friday that the current officeholder should step aside in a multistate case against an alleged scam artist accused of collecting as much as $100 million ostensibly for Navy veterans.

Cincinnati attorney David Pepper raised questions at news conference in Columbus about how Republican Attorney General Mike DeWine has handled the case against the man who calls himself Bobby Thompson.

The case doesn't address Thompson's donations to politicians, including DeWine himself. He received $1,000 during his unsuccessful U.S. Senate re-election bid in 2006.

Pepper said the donation should be reason enough for DeWine to recuse himself in the case.

"This is basic legal ethics 101," Pepper said. "It's what you do in the legal world if there's sense that you have a conflict" or, he said, an appearance of one.

DeWine has no intention or ethical obligation to hand the case over to another authority, spokesman Dan Tierney said in a statement.

DeWine recently told The Associated Press that he wasn't aware of the contribution at the time. He said he never returned it because his Senate campaign was not functioning when Thompson was indicted in 2010.

The political donations tied to Thompson, and to the United States Navy Veterans Association, his Tampa, Fla.-based charity, are "kind of a sidebar to the scam," DeWine has told the AP. Recipients included George W. Bush, Mitt Romney, Michele Bachmann and other high-profile politicians.

"That's not really an essential part of proving the elements of the crime of him taking this money," DeWine said.

Thompson faces theft, money laundering and other charges.

Pepper said investigators need to look at the whole picture, including the hundreds of thousands of dollars in Thompson's cash that was donated personally and through his Navy charity or its political action committee to more than 50 mostly Republican candidates in 16 states.

"You wouldn't just carve out the nonpolitical part and prosecute that," Pepper told reporters.

DeWine took over the Thompson investigation from former Attorney General Richard Cordray, a Democrat. Tierney said the attorney general's office has reviewed the political contributions made by Thompson and his PAC in a bipartisan investigation.

DeWine, who is up for re-election next year, has said he's allowing investigators to take the case wherever it leads. He would not comment on whether politicians, political fundraisers or telemarketers who dealt with Thompson were being questioned. But court filings indicate they have not been.

Thompson — whom authorities have identified as Harvard-trained lawyer and former military intelligence officer John Donald Cody — sits in a Cleveland jail awaiting trial this month.

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