Dozens of defendants wrapped up in "Operation Reveal the Deal" were back in court on Friday, a third day in a row for the more than 50 arrested following a probe into a charity that is suspected of running illegal gambling. The judge lowered bond for most of the defendants.
Law enforcement authorities say the Allied Veterans of the World charity used Internet cafes as a front for a $300 million gambling ring. The investigation also led to the resignation of Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll, who had provided public-relations representation to the company before her election.
As the defendants sat shackled, their lawyers took turns in closed door meetings with a judge. Their efforts appeared to pay off. Kelly Mathis, former president of the Jacksonville Bar Association, was given a $1 million bond on Thursday. On Friday, his lawyer had it reduced to $200,000.
"We knew we were up against a lot. We knew that getting something lower in this nature was going to be hard to do," said Mitchell Stone, attorney for Mathis. "In the end, we're very pleased with the outcome."
Many store managers, assistants, and major owners of the 50 Allied Veterans locations around the state were arrested on Monday and Tuesday. The U.S. Attorney's Office, the Internal Revenue Service and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement are involved in the investigation.
Investigators said only about 2 percent of roughly $6 million actually went to charities.
As the accused bond out of jail, many don't have homes to go back to. More than 100 homes were seized, as well as cars, boats, and computers.
The next court date for almost all the defendants is May 7.
Fla. House Gaming committee votes to ban Internet cafes
A special House panel has cleared a bill that would ban Florida gambling establishments commonly known as Internet cafes.
The House Select committee on gaming Friday voted 15-1 on a bill (HB 155) that was rewritten last night. Rep. Jim Waldman was the only vote against. The Coconut Creek Democrat said the committee hadn't had enough time to study the measure.
The bill still needs to clear the Rules committee before heading to the floor.
Some information taken from the Associated Press.
A previous version of this report mischaracterized Kelly Mathis' previous position, identifying him as a former head of Florida's Bar Association. The report above has been corrected to state the position he actually held.