An Oklahoma couple accused in Florida of involvement in an illegal gambling operation invested millions of dollars in a yacht there to entertain politicians, Oklahoma's attorney general reported Tuesday.
The disclosure is the latest in a political scandal that has rocked North Carolina and Florida.
In March, Florida's lieutenant governor resigned abruptly because of her ties to the group accused of running the $300 million gambling operation.
The disclosure about the yacht came in a civil case that asks a judge to forfeit almost $7.8 million of the couple's money to the state of Oklahoma. The state seized $7,783,536 from the couple's bank accounts in March.
The couple, Chase Burns, 37, and his wife, Kristin Burns, 39, deny wrongdoing. They live in Fort Cobb.
Chase Burns and his wife invested more than $5.3 million “in a yacht in Florida for the primary purpose of entertaining political officials,” Attorney General Scott Pruitt and Assistant Attorney General Kristopher Jarvis told the Oklahoma County judge.
Chase Burns is president of an Anadarko company, International Internet Technologies, which provided software for Internet cafes in Florida.
“What we do is legal,” he told The Oklahoman in March.
Florida and Oklahoma authorities, though, allege the Internet cafes actually were illegal gambling centers where customers played slot machines.
“Internet cafes, like those operated and/or facilitated by Chase Burns, Kristin Burns, and IIT, have been a scourge on the American gaming landscape for nearly the last decade,” Pruitt and Jarvis told the judge.
“Unlike legitimate casinos, which fall under the scrutiny of various taxing and regulatory authorities, Internet cafes operate outside the restrictions society imposes on gaming establishments. Thus, state governments lose the gaming revenue they would take in from a licensed establishment,” they wrote.
“Before the sham of buying Internet time, purveyors of illegal slot machines widely used the sham consideration of phone cards to entice consumers into playing their ‘sweepstakes' games on Vegas-style slot machines,” they also wrote. “In fact, as evidenced by lawfully subpoenaed bank records, Chase Burns previously distributed scores of these machines across the state of Oklahoma and elsewhere.”
Behind the Florida Internet cafes was a group called Allied Veterans of the World, which falsely claimed to be a charitable veterans organization, authorities said. More than 50 people are charged in the criminal case in Florida.
The former Florida lieutenant governor, Jennifer Carroll, a Republican, has not been charged. She resigned after being questioned by investigators.
Chase Burns was a major political donor in both Florida and North Carolina. He donated at least $235,500 in North Carolina and more than $340,000 in Florida in the past two years, records show.
He gave $4,000 to North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory. His wife also donated $4,000 to McCrory.
After learning of the Burnses' donations to him, McCrory sent $8,000 from his campaign to a nonprofit homeless shelter in Durham, N.C.
Other politicians have acted similarly, sending to charities campaign funds equal to any donation from Chase Burns.
Chase Burns has made only a couple of donations in Oklahoma over the last few years, records show.