Former bar president gets six years in $300M Web gambling case but says he expects to win on appeal

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Still insisting that he is innocent and only provided legal advice to Allied Veterans of the World, a Florida lawyer who formerly served as president of the Jacksonville bar association was sentenced Wednesday to six years in state prison for his role in masterminding a $300 million Internet gambling operation.

In a pre-sentence investigation report, the state corrections department had asked for two years of house arrest for Kelly Mathis, but the government sought a minimum term of five and a half years following his racketeering conviction last year. He was the first of nearly 60 defendants to go to trial in the Seminole County case; a number of others have taken plea bargains, according to Florida Times-Union and the Orlando Sentinel.

Prosecutors said the 50-year-old attorney and his law firm earned some $5 million in fees during the five years they worked for Allied and helped the company establish a chain of illegal casinos operating as storefront Internet cafes, under the guise of a purported veterans charity. Patrons who bought Internet time there didn’t use it, because they actually came to gamble, the state contended. Prepaid cards allowed customers to surf the Web or use computers to play games such as “Captain Cash” for extra time on their cards. When customers were done, they could redeem the cards for cash.

“What this case boils down to is everyone here took a gamble,” said Circuit Judge Kenneth R. Lester Jr. during the sentencing hearing, describing what he perceived as Mathis’ motivation. “There’s a lot of money here. It’s worth the risk.”

Mathis, who remains free on bond as he appeals his conviction, was in tears after his sentencing but says he is hopeful his conviction will be reversed.

“I’m relieved a little bit because I think I’ll prevail on appeal,” he told the Times-Union. “But I’m still scared, still concerned about this whole thing. I don’t know what I’m going to have to do with my life now.”

See also:

ABAJournal.com: “Lawyer accused of masterminding $300M gambling scheme says he did nothing wrong”

ABAJournal.com: “‘Shocked’ lawyer says he was convicted in gambling scheme for merely giving legal advice”

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