Allied Veterans pumped $1mn to politicians
By Press TV
The key players behind a purported veteran’s charity accused of setting up illegal gambling rooms pumped more than $1 million into the campaign accounts of politicians who had the power to regulate or put them out of business.
As the untaxed, barely regulated industry mushroomed into a billion-dollar industry, money went to the campaigns of governors in Florida and North Carolina as well as dozens of state legislators, and state political parties.
“They certainly were involved in the process there’s no doubt about that,” said Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford, who himself received a $500 check from one of the companies involved.
An Associated Press review of contributions showed more than $1 million went into Florida campaign accounts from 2009-2012 and more than $150,000 in North Carolina.
Allied Veterans of the World ran nearly 50 Internet parlors in Florida with computerized slot machine-style games and gave about $6 million to veterans out of nearly $300 million in profits. Investigators said much of the money went to charity leaders, who spent much of it on boats, beachfront condos and vehicles such as Maseratis, Ferraris and Porsches.
The operations were shut down this week and nearly 60 people arrested. Jennifer Carroll, Florida’s Republican lieutenant governor, abruptly resigned after being questioned by investigators. Carroll did consulting work for Allied Veterans while she was a state legislator. She was not charged with wrongdoing.
Undercover law enforcement agents fanned out in the beginning of 2012 to conduct undercover investigations of 44 Allied Veterans locations, according to an Internal Revenue Service affidavit filed in federal court.
The agents labeled the parlors “Internet casinos,” saying employees urged them to pay more to gamble to win the biggest prizes. According to the IRS, that violates a Florida law saying any sweepstakes game couldn’t have different levels of prizes for those who made donations and those who did not.
One undercover agent who took the employees’ advice to bet higher amounts won more than $630 in a single spin in December 2011 at an Allied Veterans site in Lake City – and was told he could have won even more if he’d bet more.
After the arrests were announced Wednesday, authorities said the next phase of the investigation would focus on campaign contributions and lobbying.
A review of Florida contribution records showed several people arrested donated to state politicians, as did the Oklahoma-based software company that worked with Allied. In addition, many of the more than 100 companies linked to the Jacksonville attorney who has been accused of masterminding the racketeering scheme also made contributions. AP
Millions of dollars in bank accounts were frozen, dozens of luxury cars and boats were seized, and the government has taken claim over dozens of Florida properties as part of the criminal case against the controversial nonprofit Allied Veterans of the World, newly released case documents show. Orlando Sentinel
“It’s callous and despicable,” Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi said at a news conference. “Claiming to be an organization designed to help veterans in order to run an illegal scheme insults every American who ever wore a military uniform.” ABC News
Lawmakers are scheduled to take up a bill that will outright ban internet cafes in the state of Florida. wtxl.com
Gerald Bailey, commissioner of Florida’s Department of Law Enforcement, said the arrests are only the first wave of the investigation and the second wave will look at the “large sums” of money spent on lobbying and donations to political campaigns. AP