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Veterans Charity Scandal: Suspects plead not guilty

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Updated: 5/07/2013 6:31 pm
SANFORD, Fla. -- It was the scandal so big, it forced the Lieutenant Governor to quit her job.  We're talking about the Allied Veterans of the World investigation that led to the closure of dozens of internet cafes.  The investigation also led to the arrests of 57 people, including four high profile Jacksonville men: former Allied Vets Commander Jerry Bass; former FOP President Nelson Cuba; former FOP VP Robbie Freitas; and the man prosecutors call the mastermind of the scheme, local attorney Kelly Mathis.

"We believe that the evidence will definitely reflect that he is not guilty of all these charges," said Mathis' attorney, Mitch Stone.

[SPECIAL COVERAGE: VETERANS CHARITY SCANDAL]

None of the defendants appeared in court Tuesday.  They entered written not guilty pleas.  But many of their attorneys were present, dealing the the scheduling nightmare that comes with 57 different suspects.

Attorney Zachary Stoumbos represents Bennie Prince, another suspect in this case.  "There's just no way any courthouse in the country could really facilitate trials for this many people at once," said Prince.

It's possible some of the defendants will be tried together.  Most attorneys believe Mathis will stand alone and face the judge first.

"His advice to everybody, including my people, was relied upon," said Stoumbos.  "And, in our opinion, consistent with the law."

Attorneys say the money earned in the internet cafes was legal. "Up until the legislature changed the law, it was legal," said Stone.

What the suspects did with the money could be a different story.  Of the $300 million earned, prosecutors say only 2% went to Allied Veterans.  They say Mathis, Bass, Cuba, and Freitas used the rest to line their pockets.

Action News got a look at the list of potential witnesses that could be called in Mathis' trial.  It includes law enforcement, politicians, and attorneys.  Names from our area include Clay County Sheriff Rick Beseler, St. Johns County Sheriff David Shoar, Putnam County Sheriff Jeff Hardy, Baker County Sheriff Joey Dobson, and former Jacksonville City Council President Jack Webb.

Former US Senator George LeMieux was also on the list.

Another pre-trial hearing is set for May 30.
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Fred Thompson - 5/8/2013 9:55 AM
0 Votes
Talk about giving the "middle finger" to our wounded vets. Dispicable scumbags' how dare they plead "NOT GUILTY" GTH!!!

TOMMY - 5/8/2013 5:56 AM
1 Vote
Go ahead and enter your guilty plea, because all of you are guilty, maybe their will be a cell in prison called the Allied Governors Scam, why because Scott is protecting Carroll and he is as guilty as the rest of you and by the way gaffney is part of this now and the cell should be big enouh to hold Jennifer Carroll, Corrine (sandbag)Brown,Rick Scott, Nelson (go back to cuba)Cuba,Kelly( guilty)Mathis and I won't do it again (Jerry Bass)and now the Gaffney crew. Lets wait and see who's next!
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