Daily Archives: March 22, 2013

Florida Prosecutors Crack Down on Internet Cafes, Leads to Resignation of Lieutenant Governor and Outcries

Casino Watch Focus reported that the Florida Senate Gaming Committee Chairman John Thrasher was pushing for a moratorium on Internet Cafes.  No Casinos.Org released a press release explaining why they are dangerous to Florida families and should be banned. Now the Orlando Sentinel is reporting the deals of a major $300 million Internet Café conspiracy:

Calling their actions “callous” and “despicable,” authorities on Wednesday said the nonprofit Allied Veterans of the World — which operates Internet cafes throughout Central Florida — is a sophisticated, $300 million criminal enterprise.

A three-year, multi-agency investigation into the controversial strip-mall casinos culminated this week with the arrests of roughly 50 people, including law-enforcement officers and a Jacksonville attorney on hundreds of charges ranging from racketeering to money laundering. In total, 57 people were charged in “Operation Reveal the Deal.”

The non-profit Allied Veterans held itself out to be a charity for veterans, overseeing dozens of store-front “electronic sweepstakes” centers that it called “fund-raising centers,” according to a federal search warrant affidavit prepared by an Internal Revenue Service agent. “In fact, the ‘fundraising centers’ were nothing more than Internet casinos that operated slot machines in violation of Florida’s gambling laws,” the affidavit said. The company claimed to donate 70 to 100 percent of its proceeds to charity, according to the affidavit, but in reality, gave away about 2 percent. Allied Veterans grossed $290 million between 2007 and 2012, the affidavit said, but donated just $6 million to charity.

Among the many affected, Florida’s Lieutent Governor Jennifer Carroll drew media attention as she announced her resination after being questioned by investigators about her involvment with the company she once represented.  The Wall Street Journal explains:

Florida Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll announced her resignation Wednesday, a day after she was questioned by authorities investigating an Internet cafe company that she once represented.

Ms. Carroll’s resignation letter to Gov. Rick Scott, dated Tuesday, offered no details about her reason for leaving. But Mr. Scott’s chief of staff, Adam Hollingsworth, said she was interviewed by Florida Department of Law Enforcement officers Tuesday regarding her work with Allied Veterans of the World.

She resigned to ensure her ties to the company would not be a distraction for the administration, he said. Ms. Carroll, a Navy veteran, had owned a public-relations firm that represented that company.

Florida Governor Rick Scott released a statement shortly after the resignation.  He provided some details but didn’t elaborate too much:

“Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll consulted for this company in 2009 and 2010 when she was serving in the Florida House of Representatives. FDLE interviewed Lt. Gov. Carroll yesterday related to her work for the company.

“Lt. Gov. Carroll resigned yesterday in an effort to keep her former affiliations with the company from distracting from our important work on behalf of Florida families. I will not elaborate on the details of her resignation further, other than to say that she resigned and she made the right decision for the state and her family.

“We appreciate her willingness to step up and serve our state. She was a tireless advocate for Florida’s military and our mission to create more jobs. We are grateful for her service.

 Lt. Gov Carroll commented to the press regarding her role in the investigation and her decision to resign:

[Former Florida Lieutenant Gov. Jennifer Carroll] said that she did not believe that she, or her former public relations company, were targets of the investigation. Carroll also said she would not withdraw from “public life.”

“My decision yesterday to resign as Lieutenant Governor represents my unwavering commitment to the great state of Florida,” Carroll said in the lengthy statement. “I simply refuse to allow the allegations facing a former client of my public relations firm to undermine the important work of the Governor and his administration.”

The actions of this large network of Internet Cafes are understandably upsetting. This particular organization was supposed to be donating money to Veterans, so naturally they spoke out on the matter as well:

Bill Carter is a local Vietnam-era veteran. Wednesday night he was left feeling betrayed and blindsided, he says, by those he once thought of as brethren. “It’s probably one of the greatest injustices that you’ll hear anything about,” said Carter. “To betray a trust like that is just unfathomable.” “Claiming to be an organization designed to help veterans in order to run an illegal scheme insults every American who ever wore a military uniform,” said Attorney General Pam Bondi.

Many veterans didn’t want to go on camera after the news broke, fearful this will be a black eye for veteran’s organizations nationwide. “I just think it’s a real bad thing for the rest of us veterans’ organizations that are trying to do good,” said one local veteran who didn’t want his identity revealed.

To those behind the scheme, the ones Carter calls the lowest of low, he says it’s an insult to everything our nation’s heroes fought so hard for. “It literally makes you want to cry. Friends of mine have died. Their blood has been left on the battlefield. For someone to take money is probably the most disgusting thing I can think of behind child molestation,” said Carter.

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