Florida's lieutenant governor has resigned because of her ties to a group accused of running a $300 million illegal gambling operation with software from an Oklahoma company.
Florida Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll, a Republican, has not been charged. She resigned after being questioned Tuesday by investigators.
The president of the Oklahoma company, International Internet Technologies, is facing felony charges in Florida of racketeering; conspiracy; manufacture, sale or possession of slot machines; lottery; keeping a gambling house; and money laundering.
Florida authorities Wednesday described IIT president Chase Egan Burns, 37, as one of the four main co-conspirators behind the operation. Authorities said his company provided the software used at the illegal Internet casinos in Florida.
Federal and state agents seized evidence Tuesday from his business in Anadarko, and Burns was jailed for a few hours in Anadarko on Tuesday before being released on a $500,000 bond. He is fighting extradition to Florida. Authorities said he lives in Fort Cobb.
“What we do is legal,” he told The Oklahoman on Monday night.
“The organization falsely claimed to be a charitable veterans' organization, but instead deceived the public and government while lining the pockets of its operators,” the Florida Department of Law Enforcement said.
The group, called Allied Veterans of the World, was led by Burns; Johnny Duncan, 62, of Boiling Springs, S.C.; Jerry Bass, 62, of Jacksonville, Fla.; and attorney Kelly Mathis, 49, of Jacksonville, Fla., authorities said.
“Investigators believe the four co-conspirators received a combined more than $90 million in proceeds from the scheme,” the Florida Department of Law Enforcement said.
Officials said 53 other people were involved in the operation and also will face charges, including Burns' wife, Kristin Amanda Burns, 38. Most already have been arrested.
Allied Veterans of the World had nearly 50 Internet cafes with computerized slot machine-style games. The group claimed their cafes were fundraising centers but only about $6 million ever went to charity, authorities said.
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi called the alleged scam “callous” and “despicable” and said it “insults every American who ever wore a military uniform.”
Florida Gov. Rick Scott said Carroll consulted for Allied Veterans while serving in the Florida House of Representatives in 2009 and 2010.
“Lt. Gov. Carroll resigned in an effort to keep her former affiliation with the company from distracting from the administration's important work on behalf of Florida families,” the governor's office said.
The public relations firm she co-owned, 3 N&JC, did work for Allied Veterans. Carroll, a Navy veteran, also appeared in a TV ad in 2011 promoting the organization's work on behalf of veterans and their families.
Carroll said in a statement Wednesday that neither she nor the public relations firm was targeted in the inquiry and she stepped down so that her ties to the organization would not be a distraction for Scott.
“It is shameful that Allied Veterans of the World allegedly attempted to use the guise of charitable organization to help veterans in order to lend credibility to this $300 million gambling scheme,” she said.
Allied Veterans was founded in 1979 and evolved from a charitable organization that ran bingo games and held bake sales for veterans.
The Associated Press