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Florida lieutenant governor resigns in gambling probe

In this May 17, 2012 file photo, Florida Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll introduces Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney at a campaign stop at the River City Brewing Company in Jacksonville, Fla.

In this May 17, 2012 file photo, Florida Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll introduces Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney at a campaign stop at the River City Brewing Company in Jacksonville, Fla.

TALLAHASSEE — Florida Lieutenant Governor Jennifer Carroll abruptly resigned after an Internet cafe company that was her former consulting client was linked to an alleged illegal gambling racket, state officials said on Wednesday.

Carroll, who was not charged with wrongdoing, sent a brief note to Governor Rick Scott on Tuesday tendering her resignation. She is a Republican and was the highest-ranking woman in state government and the first black official elected statewide.

Her resignation came hours before authorities announced that 57 people had been charged in a $300 million conspiracy allegedly orchestrated by Allied Veterans of the World, a non-profit organization that runs Internet cafes.

Carroll was co-owner of a public relations firm that represented Allied Veterans and worked for the group during some of the seven years she served in the Florida House of Representatives.

She said she was cooperating fully with the investigation.

"Although I do not believe I or my company are targets of the investigation, I could not allow my company's former affiliation with Allied Veterans to distract from the administration's important work for the families of Florida," Carroll said.

Operation "Reveal the Deal" uncovered what law enforcement officials described as a "sophisticated racketeering and money laundering scheme stemming from 49 illegal gambling centers operating under the guise of Internet cafes," according to a press statement from the Seminole County Sheriff's office.

"The organization falsely claimed to be a charitable veterans' organization, but instead deceived the public and government while lining the pockets of its operators," it said.

Investigators said the group took in $300 million from January 2008 to January 2012 but gave less than 2 percent to charity.

The investigation began three years ago after a World War Two veteran stopped into an Allied Veterans storefront and said to himself, "My God this isn't about veterans, it's a casino," said Seminole County Sheriff Donald Eslinger.

The governor said he would wait until the legislative session ends in May to choose a replacement for Carroll.

Carroll took office as lieutenant governor in January 2011 and focused on aerospace job development and working with military contractors to increase economic activity of the armed forces in Florida. She is a former Navy officer and previously was executive director of Florida's Department of Veterans Affairs.

Tuesday's arrests were made across Florida and in five other states, including Oklahoma and South Carolina.

Investigators seized 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.

Among those arrested were Johnny Duncan, 62, former national commander of the organization; Jerry Bass, 62, the current commander; Chase Burns, 37, the owner of a company that allegedly provided the software used by the gambling centers, and Kelly Mathis, 49, the organization's attorney.

Also arrested were Nelson Cuba, 48, and Robert Freitas, 47, both of Jacksonville, Florida, who were identified as law enforcement officers who serve as the president and vice president of the Fraternal Order of Police's Jacksonville Lodge.

Comments

RedEric 1 year, 7 months ago

Oh my gosh, a charity organization accused of cheating taxpayers? What is the world coming to? I have every confidence that our local charities are honest and forthright. .... Back to reality. Except for the Salvation Army and maybe others, charities are a scam. A way of making profit without paying taxes. Picture of Phoebe. Why does a charity need an offshore bank account? What happens to the vast amount of money collected by churches? Picture of Sherwood. Liars and Cheaters and Thieves, Oh No!

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gotanyfacts 1 year, 7 months ago

I am also suspicious of charities, or anyone who requests a "donation". I agree with your opinion that a majority are cash cows for those running them. But, let's not paint with too broad of a brush. You lose the detail needed to work on the problem.

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RedEric 1 year, 7 months ago

I prefer Napoleonic laws like the IRS, you are guilty until proven innocent. Consider it a change of direction. Instead of detail work finding who is guilty and then trying to move the mountain. Condemn them all and let them defend themselves.

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FryarTuk 1 year, 7 months ago

Well, that's one interpretation of Napoleonic Code. Unfortunately it hasn't helped the political corruption of Louisiana which relies on it for state law.

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RedEric 1 year, 7 months ago

It has done wonders for the IRS.

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RedEric 1 year, 7 months ago

It has done wonders for the IRS though.

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FryarTuk 1 year, 7 months ago

gaf, agree. Refine the strokes but 501(c)(3) organizations needed to be scrutinized intensely by federal, state and local agencies. If DoCo governments weren't owned outright by PPHS there would be significantly more objectivity and soundness in property taxation.

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redneckgourmet 1 year, 7 months ago

Sherwood Church doesn't make the movies. Sherwood Pictures, a for-profit company, makes them. And a WHOLE lot of the money that the movies make is given to charities. Charities other than the church. Lots of charities in the SoWeGa area. It's real hard to get facts, I know. Too many people have opinions on things of which they know nothing. It seems the more ignorant you are, the more opinions you possess...

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Sister_Ruby 1 year, 7 months ago

Whenever people ask for the facts, we are told it's none of our business. If you go to the Sherwood Pictures website, down in the bottom left corner it says "a ministry of Sherwood Baptist Church. I've never heard of something that is designated as "a ministry" that was "for profit" when it comes to tax purposes. And if you go to the Sherwood Baptist Church website, under "Ministries" you can select "Sherwood Pictures". Are you sure about YOUR statements? I don't think even the membership has access to information on Sherwood Pictures income and outflows of money.

As a Major Prophetess myself, I have to know what a non profit is and isn't.

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Sister_Ruby 1 year, 7 months ago

And oh by the way if Sherwood Pictures Ministries were a "for-profit" entity they would have to issue financial statements that would be available to the public. WHICH THEY ARE NOT. So says the Albany Herald. You are mis-informed or either are a liar, redneckgourmet.

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Sherwood_Eagle_Alum 1 year, 7 months ago

Only public companies are required to publish financial statements. Many private companies do to enhance their image, but they are not required to make those statements public.

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chinaberry25 1 year, 7 months ago

I saw a girl sitting outside of Dollar General begging for money for a boxing association helping the neighborhood kids. It had a number for the non-profit. I asked her about it and BS was what I got. I told her that I was going to go home and look it up. Have never seen her since begging for money. Be very careful who you give to panhandling. Most are not legit. Even that guy selling photos for a police organization. Police get very little of that money.

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sowegap 1 year, 7 months ago

Reminds me of a church organization that used to sit outside of the local grocery stores in Dawson and ask people for donations. They claimed that they were collecting the money to give to charities to help with diabetes research. I stopped once and asked some simple questions and they were not able to give answers that actually made any sense so I took my money and later made a donation to the Diabetes Association for a friend who had died in Ohio from dialysis mishap. She was a diabetic and ended up on dialysis and bled to death in her home while her parents were in another part of the house, by the time they checked on her it was too late. I do have to thank them, because it reinforced my desire to do something in her name and I learned that just because they put on nice clothes and talk the talk and walk the walk, does helping others is their main cause, rather helping self, so now I no longer place money in people's hand, but I will put change and a few bills in those jars to help those with medical problems, such as needed kidney transplants or assistance paying for extremely expensive life saving medications or procedures.

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