Seven months after a state and federal law enforcement dragnet resulted in the arrests of 57 Floridians on racketeering charges, only 17 defendants remain. In March, employees of charitable gambling cafés run by Allied Veterans of the World were hauled in from 23 Florida counties and five other states.
As we discussed in March, the scandal prompted the resignation of Florida’s then-lieutenant governor, who had once consulted for the group. She was never accused of any crime. And, although the alleged illegal gambling wasn’t actually done online, it also resulted in a state ban on all Internet cafés.
Prosecutors accused a Jacksonville lawyer of masterminding the setup of Allied Veterans as a charitable front for a $300-million illegal gambling operation with few proceeds going to veterans. Prosecutors claim his recompense for the scheme was $1.5 million a year in legal fees to his firm. He claims he provided only legitimate legal advice to the organization.
Last month, a Florida jury convicted him of 103 out of 104 counts, although only one was a felony. Nevertheless, his law practice is destroyed and he faces potentially dozens of years in prison — and he is the only defendant expected to serve prison time at all.
The defense claims they were unfairly prevented from calling crucial witnesses. Some, the defense says, would have testified to the accuracy and correctness of the legal advice he provided to Allied Veterans.
The judge also limited their right to call legislators involved in the effort to ban Internet cafés. The defense wanted to show that the Allied Veterans operation couldn’t have been illegal since the legislature was only then prohibiting it.
Apparently no other defendants, many of whom have resolved their charges through plea agreements, were called to testify.
The defendant called the verdict “shocking,” and indicated he would appeal. The prosecutor told reporters the case is winding down. An appeal by the main defendant, of course, could start it up again.
Merely being accused of a white collar crime can threaten not only your liberty but your livelihood and reputation. Yet these cases are rarely cut-and-dried, as they often involve complex financial evidence and complicated legal issues. If you are ever charged with racketeering or any white collar crime — or if you know you are under investigation — you should consult with an attorney experienced in their defense immediately.
- Tampa Bay Times, “Prosecutors wrapping up charity scandal,” Associated Press, Nov. 26, 2013
- NBC 6 South Florida, “Attorney Kelly Mathis Found Guilty in Florida Gambling Scheme,” Oct. 12, 2013