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When making charitable contributions, take the extra step to check out the organization

ALBANY HERALD EDITORIAL: Make sure the help you want to give goes to those who need it

It’s the season for giving. Unfortunately, it’s also the season for hucksters.

On Monday, one of the worst was sentenced to 28 years in prison by an Ohio judge. John Donald Cody, 67, who had been operating under the alias of Bobby Thompson, took donors in 40 states to the tune of $100 million. What makes this a particularly disgraceful act was he claimed to be raising the money to help U.S Navy veterans.

Cody had been wanted by the FBI since 1987 on accusations that the Harvard-trained lawyer, a former member of the U.S. Army’s military intelligence operation, had fleeced money from an estate. As Bobby Thompson, he operated the U.S. Navy Veterans Association, a fake charity that was based in Tampa.

Given his age, his lawyer contends the punishment is tantamount to a life sentence, which is probably is. If so, that is just punishment in this case.

Cody did more than simply operate the second-largest charity scam ever prosecuted in the United States. He may well have harmed legitimate charities that really are doing what they can to help America’s military veterans.

After the work and sacrifices our brave men and women in the military have given our nation, such a thing is a slap in the face of every service member.

We hope this won’t harm the generosity of Americans, particularly toward causes that help our best and bravest defenders of freedom. But we also caution potential contributors to check out a charity before making that donation.

A charity’s mission, program and finances, for instance, should be available on its website. If it’s not, check for a report at www.give.org.

Check with state officials who register charities. In Georgia, you can go to the Secretary of State’s website, http://sos.georgia.gov/securities/charities_paid_solicitors.htm.

It’s the season for giving, and it should be. Just be sure to take that extra step to ensure that your hard-earned dollars are going to places that help those who need it.

The Albany Herald Editorial Board