Thursday October 24,2013 : THREE INTERNET CAFE OPERATORS ENTER PLEAS IN FLORIDA (Update)
South Carolina operators agree to plead guilty to unspecified "Allied Veterans of the World" felony charges.
Three South Carolina-based directors of an internet cafe operation that ran branches in Florida shuttered by state investigators on gambling allegations in March this year have agreed to plead guilty to gambling related felony charges.
The publication Keys.net reports that Gulf Internet Services officials Michael Graham, Joseph Harrington and Elaine Harrington of South Carolina have agreed with Florida prosecutors that their corporation will enter a guilty plea to a felony count.
Gulf Internet Services operated internet cafes in Tavernier, Marathon and Stock Island that prosecutors claim offered computer-based gambling.
The three Florida venues owned by Gulf were among 49 statewide "affiliates" of the Allied Veterans of the World organisation, a non-profit group that lent its charity status to the for-profit companies that ran the affiliates.
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi claimed only about 2 percent of the estimated $300 million taken in state-wide by the Allied Veterans network made its way to charitable causes.
About $100 million in assets were frozen when the state's Operation Reveal The Deal raided the affiliates and arrested 57 defendants across several states.
Allied Veterans "falsely claimed to be a charitable veterans organization but instead deceived the public and government while lining the pockets of its operators," said Seminole County Sheriff Donald Eslinger, who launched the probe in 2009.
Earlier this month, state prosecutor Nick Cox won a conviction on 51 felony counts and 51 misdemeanors against Jacksonville attorney Kelly Mathis, described as the "mastermind" of the Allied Veterans operation.
Three other leaders of the state Allied Veterans group reached plea agreements on felony counts, and have yet to be sentenced. Little or no jail time is expected since they cooperated in the case against Mathis.
About half of the 57 defendants have reached some kind of agreement with prosecutors, the Associated Press reported earlier this month.