TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll announced her resignation Wednesday, a day after she was questioned by authorities investigating possible illegal gambling at an Internet cafe company that she once represented.
The head of the company, Allied Veterans of the World, has been accused of a using the cafes as an illegal front for veterans' charity and keeping millions of dollars in profits.
Carroll's resignation letter to Gov. Rick Scott, dated Tuesday, offered no details about her reason for leaving. But Scott's chief of staff, Adam Hollingsworth, said she was interviewed by Florida Department of Law Enforcement officers Tuesday regarding her work with Allied Veterans of the World.
She resigned to ensure her ties to the company would not be a distraction for the administration, Hollingsworth said. Carroll, a Navy veteran, had owned a public relations firm that represented Allied Veterans, which operated Internet cafes and purchased software from International Internet Technologies.
According to an Internal Revenue Service affidavit filed in federal court, Allied Veterans evolved from a charitable organization that ran bingo games and held bake sales for veterans beginning in 1979 to a group suspected of operating more than 40 illegal for-profit gambling locations around Florida. The veterans charity was a fraud, according to the IRS.
"In an effort to mislead the public into believing that it is not profiting from an illegal gambling enterprise, Allied Veterans and others have engaged in a conspiracy and scheme to defraud," the affidavit said.
Carroll's aides said they had no immediate comment Wednesday.
To play games at one of the Internet cafes, a customer gets a prepaid card and then goes to a computer to play "sweepstakes." The games, with spinning wheels similar to slot machines, have names such as "Captain Cash," ''Lucky Shamrocks" and "Money Bunny," according to the IRS.
Winners go back to a cashier with their cards and cash out.
While serving as a state lawmaker, Carroll's ties to the company were also questioned when she proposed a bill that would benefit Internet cafes. But the bill was withdrawn before the 2010 Legislative session started. She told the "Florida Times-Union" at the time, that the bill was filed by a member of her staff without her approval.
The owner of the company accused of supplying the cafes with illegal gambling software was arrested Tuesday in Oklahoma. Chase Egan Burns, 37, faces charges of racketeering. He heads of Anadarko, Okla.-based International Internet Technologies.
Burns is accused of making $290 million after supplying the software in Florida and claiming the games' proceeds would benefit Allied Veterans. Oklahoma authorities said the group actually received only 1 percent of the money. Burns and his wife, 38-year-old Kristin Burns, both face extradition to Florida to face the charges.