Criminal Justice

Veterans charity used for lawyer's $300M online gambling scheme, say officials

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A Florida lawyer who was formerly president of his local bar in Jacksonville has been accused of masterminding a $300 million gambling scheme that operated through a veterans charity.

Authorities say Jacksonville lawyer Kelly Mathis represented Allied Veterans of the World and profited from the illegal operation, report the Associated Press and the Florida Times-Union. AP says Mathis is accused of making about $6 million from the scheme, while the Times-Union puts his profits at $7 million.

News of his alleged involvement “sent shock waves Wednesday through the Jacksonville legal community,” AP says, “in large part because Mathis is a well-known lawyer.”

Arrest warrants have been issued for 57 people in the probe of Allied Veterans, which ran nearly 50 Internet gaming parlors, according to police. Investigators say the charity spent about 2 percent of the $300 million in gambling proceeds from 2007 to early 2012 on veterans, according to another Associated Press story. Charity leaders are accused of using the profits to buy luxury cars, beachfront condos and boats.

The revelations led to the resignation of Florida Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll, who co-owned a public relations firm that once did work for the charity. She was not accused of any wrongdoing, however.

The next phase of the probe will focus on the charity’s expenditures for lobbying and campaign donations.

Mathis’ lawyer, Mitch Stone, told the Times-Union his client was acting as an attorney for the charity and did not profit from illegal schemes. “This will have an absolute chilling effect on the practice of law if lawyers have to concern themselves with being charged with crimes based upon advice to clients of how to legally do something,” Stone said.

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