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Internet gambling ring benefited key Florida politicians

| Thursday, March 14, 2013, 9:33 p.m.

TALLAHASSEE — The key players behind a purported veterans charity accused of setting up illegal gambling rooms pumped more than $1 million into the campaign accounts of politicians who had the power to regulate or put them out of business.

As the untaxed, barely regulated industry mushroomed into a billion-dollar affair, money went to the campaigns of governors in Florida and North Carolina as well as dozens of state legislators, and state political parties.

“They certainly were involved in the process, there's no doubt about that,” said Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford, who received a $500 check from one of the companies involved.

An Associated Press review of contributions showed more than $1 million went into Florida campaign accounts from 2009-2012 and more than $150,000 in North Carolina.

Allied Veterans of the World ran nearly 50 Internet parlors in Florida with computerized slot machine-style games and gave about $6 million to veterans out of nearly $300 million in profits. Investigators said much of the money went to charity leaders, who spent much of it on boats, beachfront condos and vehicles such as Maseratis, Ferraris and Porsches.

The operations were shut down this week and nearly 60 people arrested. Jennifer Carroll, Florida's Republican lieutenant governor, abruptly resigned after being questioned by investigators. Carroll did consulting work for Allied Veterans while she was a state legislator. She was not charged with wrongdoing.

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