Associated Press Release By MIKE SCHNEIDER
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — A sweeping multistate investigation of a purported veterans’ charity based in Florida has led to arrest warrants against nearly 60 people and the resignation of the state’s lieutenant governor.
Florida Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll once did public relations for the charity Allied Veterans of the World. She was questioned in the investigation, but she has not been charged with wrongdoing.
Authorities said Wednesday they have issued 57 arrest warrants in Florida and five other states. Attorney General Pam Bondi says charges will include racketeering, conspiracy, money laundering and possession of slot machines.
Carroll’s office has had no comment on the matter.
Associated Press Release
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Authorities: 57 charged in Fla. gambling scandal tied to lieutenant governor’s resignation.
Press Release: Florida Department of Law Enforcement
SEMINOLE CO. (March 13, 2013) – Local, state and federal law enforcement officials and prosecutors today announced the charging of 57 individuals for their roles in an organized $300 million conspiracy orchestrated by Allied Veterans of the World. Operation “Reveal the Deal” uncovered a sophisticated racketeering and money laundering scheme stemming from 49 illegal gambling centers operating under the guise of “internet cafes.” The organization falsely claimed to be a charitable veterans’ organization, but instead deceived the public and government while lining the pockets of its operators.
Law enforcement officers yesterday began executing 54 search warrants and 57 arrest warrants in 23 Florida counties and five additional states, rounding up individuals and evidence involved in the conspiracy. Investigators are seizing slot machines and records from Allied Veterans of the World gambling centers across the state, as well as 80 vehicles and vessels, 170 properties, and 260 bank accounts estimated in the tens of millions of dollars.
Allied Veterans of the World was led by four co-conspirators: Johnny Duncan, 62, of Boiling Springs, S.C., Jerry Bass, 62, of Jacksonville, Fla., Chase Burns, 37, of Fort Cobb, Okla., and Kelly Mathis, 49, also of Jacksonville, Fla. Duncan serves as the former national commander of the organization, Bass is the current commander, and Mathis is the organization’s attorney. Burns owns and operates International Internet Technologies and provided the software used by the gambling centers.
The organization is federally registered as a 501(c)(19), a tax-exempt veterans organization, and touts that it operates for charitable purposes. Instead, investigators allege it ran gambling centers and illegal slot machines, funneling the illegal proceeds through a sophisticated web of for-profit corporations that paid off the Allied Veterans of the World management, software provider and lawyer. More than 100 for-profit corporations and a combination of shell companies and internet cafes were utilized to conceal the illegal activity and funds generated by the gambling centers. Investigators found that during the period January 2008 to January 2012, less than 2 percent of the $300 million in gambling center revenues was given to charity.
Investigators believe the four co-conspirators received a combined more than $90 million in proceeds from the scheme. They were charged with Racketeer and Influenced Corrupt Organizations (RICO); RICO conspiracy; manufacture, sale, possession of slot machines; lottery; keeping gambling houses; and money laundering. Duncan was booked into the Spartanburg County Detention Facility (South Carolina), Bass was booked into the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office Jail, Burns was booked into the Caddo County Jail (Oklahoma), and Mathis was booked into the John E. Polk Correctional Facility in Seminole County.
The other 53 conspirators (see attached list) are associated with the illicit enterprise and operated the gambling centers, hiding their portion of a combined $194 million in gambling proceeds. These subjects reside in Florida, Alabama, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Nevada and Georgia. They face multiple counts of gambling, slot machines, lottery, money laundering and RICO. As of 1 p.m. today, 49 have been arrested. Among them are Nelson Cuba, 48, and Robert Freitas, 47, both of Jacksonville, Fla. The two are law enforcement officers who serve as the President and Vice-President of the Fraternal Order of Police’s Jacksonville Lodge. The investigation found they received more than $500,000 through a shell corporation during an 18-month period. The two withdrew cash weekly, attempting to avoid detection by removing amounts just below mandatory federal reporting requirements. Cuba and Freitas both face the additional money laundering charge of structuring transactions to evade reporting or registration requirements. They were booked into the John E. Polk Correctional Facility in Seminole County.
All charges are first degree felonies and all of the subjects arrested will be initially held on a no bond status.
Operation “Reveal the Deal” began in July 2009 and was conducted by the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office, the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the Internal Revenue Service, and the United States Secret Service. The agencies worked in partnership with the Florida Attorney General’s Office of Statewide Prosecution and the United States Attorney’s Office.