60 charged in veterans charity scam; Fla. lieutenant governor out
ORLANDO — Florida's lieutenant governor resigned on Wednesday, and nearly 60 other people are charged in a scandal involving a purported veterans charity that was a front for a $300 million gambling operation, authorities said.
Allied Veterans of the World runs nearly 50 Internet parlors with computerized slot machine-styled games, which usually are legal in Florida if most of the proceeds go to charity.
The organization's executives, however, gave precious little to veterans but lavished millions on themselves — purchasing boats, beachfront condos and Maseratis, Ferraris and Porsches.
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi called the alleged scam “callous” and “despicable,” and said it “insults every American who ever wore a military uniform.”
Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll was not among those charged but resigned a day after she was questioned by investigators.
Her public relations firm did work for St. Augustine-based Allied Veterans. Carroll — a Navy veteran who served in the Persian Gulf War — appeared in a TV ad in 2011 promoting the organization's work on behalf of veterans and their families.
Carroll's resignation letter didn't explain why she is stepping down, but Republican Gov. Rick Scott said she resigned so that her ties to the organization would not be a distraction for the administration.
The investigation involved 57 arrest warrants and 54 search warrants issued in Florida and in five other states — Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama and Nevada. As of mid-afternoon, 49 people had been arrested.
Authorities said they seized about 300 bank accounts containing $64.7 million, as well as sports cars and other property.
Bondi said that when charges are formally filed next week, they will include racketeering, conspiracy, money laundering and possession of slot machines.
Gerald Bailey, commissioner of Florida's Department of Law Enforcement, said the arrests are only the first wave of the investigation. The second wave will look at the “large sums” of money spent on lobbying and donations to political campaigns; he would not give details.
Allied Veterans was founded in 1979 and evolved from a charitable organization that ran bingo games and held bake sales for veterans to a group suspected of widespread illegal gambling throughout Florida, according to an Internal Revenue Service affidavit.
One of those arrested, Jacksonville lawyer Kelly Mathis, was identified by authorities as the mastermind of the scheme. He allegedly made about $6 million from the operation.
In Anadarko, Okla., the owner of International Internet Technologies, a company accused of supplying the cafes with software, was arrested along with his wife. Chase Egan Burns, 37, and Kristin Burns, 38, face charges including racketeering and conspiracy.
International Internet Technologies made $63 million from the Florida operation from 2007 to 2010, according to the IRS.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Deputy vanishes amid Texas flooding
- Dog found in Oregon will fly to Pa.
- Al-Qaida cell poses as great a danger as ISIS
- White House orders plan for antibiotic resistance problem
- British hostage in Islamic State video talks of showing ‘the truth’
- ‘Easy Rider’ bike set for auction
- Training, equipping Syrian rebels approved by Senate
- Man arrested in Calif. wildfire
- Red tide threatens Florida economy
- Global heat records tumble once again
- House GOP repackages election-year bills, expected to fail