By M. Alex Johnson – NBC News
A Florida lawyer was convicted of racketeering Friday night for his role in setting up a $300 million network of illegal casinos that posed as a charity for veterans.
Kelly Mathis, 50, of Jacksonville, who was convicted in Seminole County Circuit Court in Sanford, was the first of 57 defendants to go on trial in a in a sprawling statewide gambling investigation that led to the resignation of Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll in March.
Carroll, a Republican who in 2010 became the first African-American to be elected to statewide office in Florida, had been a public relations consultant to the organization and was questioned but never charged.
State prosecutors called Mathis the mastermind of the operation, which called itself Allied Veterans of the World. Mathis and his associates allegedly hid the casinos behind a front business of Internet cafes. Customers allegedly bought time on the Internet but actually played the slots.