Florida Lieutenant Governor Jennifer Carroll is just one of more than 50 people who have been questioned in a massive Internet cafe scam investigation amid allegations that a public relations firm of which she is co-owner did PR for Allied Veterans, which reportedly fronted for the scam. Although not herself charged with any wrongdoing in the unfolding scandal, Carroll stepped down from her post immediately, stating that although her PR firm was also not alleged to have been involved, she didn’t want her ties to Allied to be a distraction to Florida Governor Rick Scott’s administration.
Lawyer was Mastermind
Still a developing story, it appears that 49-year-old Jacksonville attorney Kelly Mathis was the mastermind behind an enormous gambling ring that used Allied Veterans as a front to skim $300 million from Internet cafes in 23 Florida counties, as well as six states.
Allied Veterans of the World, a nonprofit organization created to aid veterans and in operation since 1979, is the target of the investigation. The group operated 49 Internet cafes in Florida between 2007 and 2012, and those cafes brought in some $300 million in revenues. The majority of that money should have gone to help veterans in V.A. hospitals and clinics with their rehabilitation, but in fact, only $6 million of the total take, a mere 2 percent, ended up being reported as charitable donations during that time.
Benefiting from the balance, according to allegations, were Mathis and three others, one of whom, Jerry Bass, 62, is a National Commander of Allied Veterans himself. Chase Burns, 37, owner of International Internet Technologies (IIT), is accused of using his technical know-how to run the cafes while skimming for himself and his partners. Authorities say IIT took in $68 million from the various gambling centers that were being operated under Allied Veterans.
The fourth member of this group, Johnny Duncan, 62, is also a professional scammer; in 1987 he was charged with creating a fake charity to sponsor bingo games, a ruse that made it possible for him not to pay any taxes from his revenues on the game. Within two years, the scam had grown into South Carolina’s largest bingo network. Duncan was sentenced to six months’ probation and was then forbidden to operate bingo games in Florida. But you can’t keep a good hustler down.
At least 49 of these Internet cafes, all owned by Allied Veterans, have now been shut down, and some 300 bank accounts with $64.7 million have been confiscated. Florida law enforcement says more arrests will be forthcoming, as political contributions made by Allied, and other gambling centers not directly operated by the charity, come to light.