Suwannee Democrat

Suwannee Democrat

March 13, 2013

Live Oak Internet Services part of raid

Live Oak — Federal and local officials shut down a local Internet cafe today as part of a sophisticated investigation that also led to the resignation of Florida Lt. Governor Jennifer Carroll, whose former public relations firm once had ties to Allied Veterans of the World, the company that owns the local cafe.

Carroll tendered her resignation to Gov. Rick Scott Tuesday night.

Fifty-one centers run by Allied Veterans of the World were shut down, 50 of those in Florida. One was in Live Oak, and one in Lake City.

Fifty-seven individuals were charged with illegal activity linked to a $300 million conspiracy orchestrated by Allied Veterans of the World.

There were no local arrests.

Federal agents that seized equipment locally included the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, IRS, and local officials.

A press release from FDLE:

 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 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.

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