JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Kelly Mathis has been tagged the ringleader in the Allied Veterans of the World scandal. Prosecutors allege he masterminded a $300 million money-laundering scheme stemming from Internet cafes operated by the nonprofit organization.
A total of 57 people were arrested in a statewide bust, including Mathis, local Fraternal Order of Police president Nelson Cuba, local FOP vice president Robbie Freitas, and Allied Vets leader Jerry Bass.
Mathis's attorney, Mitch Stone, thinks the charges are bogus, and that the case should be thrown out of court.
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"We all have the same defense, which is what Allied Veterans was doing in terms of selling Internet time, using a promotional sweepstakes in order to enhance sales, is perfectly legal in the state of Florida," he said.
But if the case does go to trial, a judge ruled that Mathis will be tried at the same time as several other defendants. Stone worries the others will make his client a scapegoat.
"The people who are charged along with Mr. Mathis have the defense that even if it was illegal, we got legal advice saying it was legal," he said.
The state claims Mathis and the other suspects lined their pockets with money meant for charity. All have pleaded not guilty. Trial should begin in the fall.
The Allied Veterans of the World investigation led to the resignation of Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll, and to the closure of all of Florida's Internet cafes.