For those who dedicate themselves to real veterans charities, the discovery that an estimated $100 million had been donated to Thompson's organization stung.
Paul Rieckhoff, of Iraq and Afghanistan War Veterans of America, said the money "could have sent hundreds of veterans back to school. It would have provided mental health support for thousands. I mean, shame on him. This is the lowest of the low."
Authorities now say they believe Thompson had been laying the seeds of his vanishing act for years, creating false identities in cities around the country, and possibly stashing away millions of dollars in cash in storage lockers to help keep him flush. They first tracked him to Boston, and then Providence, where he lived in a small house on Broadway under the name Anderson Yazi.
"He's a master liar," said William Boldin, the deputy U.S. Marshal who helped lead the manhunt. "And what's interesting is, although all of his stories were lies, each identity that he stole belonged to a real, live, living person. If he would've been encountered by a police officer for any reason … it would have come back to a legitimate person who wasn't wanted by police."
The real Anderson Yazi lives on a Navajo reservation and had never traveled to Providence or Boston.
Elliott believes that when Thompson's story was featured on the television show "America's Most Wanted," the fugitive got spooked. Soon after it aired, he was back on the road. Traveling by bus, he is believed to have made stops in New Mexico, California, and Washington state.
Even though the agents arrived in Providence after Thompson had fled, they discovered a UPS box he had rented there. It had been abandoned, but the mail kept coming. That mail provided them with the clues they needed. Thompson had made purchases under the name Anderson Yazi, and those purchases could be traced to Portland, Oregon.
When the Marshals and investigators from the Ohio Attorney General's office arrived in Portland, they knew they needed to search local bars for signs of him. During his travels, Thompson had gained a reputation as a drinker who spent hours at bars debating politics with other patrons.
"He told me his name was Don," said Shane Wendell, a bartender who served drinks to the fugitive in Portland. "I asked him one day what he did for a living and he told me he was helping a friend in Ohio open up a new church."