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State: 'They did not go to Allied Veterans to use the internet'

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Updated: 10/09/2013 6:55 pm
SANFORD, Fla. -- It's the scandal that closed Florida's internet cafes and led to the resignation of the lieutenant governor.

Now, the trial of the accused mastermind of a veterans charity scandal is over. By the end of the week, we could know if Kelly Mathis will be convicted or vindicated.

"He broke the law," said state prosecutor Lisa Acharekar in closing arguments Wednesday.

The state has accused Mathis of being the architect of a multi-million dollar scheme that linked a veterans charity to internet cafes. They say those cafes, which were run by Allied Veterans of the World, were nothing more than strip mall casinos where customers could win or lose money by playing computerized slot machines.

Acharekar used witness testimony as ammunition saying, "He said he went back everyday, from April 2012 to March 2013, because he wanted to win back the money that he lost. And he went back everyday because of his addiction to gambling."

Mathis's defense attorney, Mitch Stone, fired back, saying those customers were not gambling. They were participating in a sweepstakes, playing by the rules laid out by Florida law.

In order to be a sweepstakes, Stone said the game must be tied to the sale of a product. In this case, the Internet cafes were selling internet time.

The state said that was just a front. "They did not go to Allied Veterans to use the internet," said Acharekar.

She said centuries of internet time accumulated, because no one used it.

The defense said you can buy shoes and never wear them. It doesn't make their sale illegal.

"This is not about the law," said Stone. "This is about the law not catching up with technology."

Unlike gambling, Stone said a sweepstakes winner is predetermined. And there's no purchase necessary to play. All rules by which he says Allied Vets internet cafes abided.

He said Mathis was hired by Allied Vets to research the law and make sure their internet cafes were on the up and up.

The state claims Mathis played the system, making himself and others very rich, while donating only a fraction of the profits to charity.

Mathis was one of 57 people arrested in March after a statewide raid and closure of internet cafes. Most of the major players made deals with the state, entering no-contest pleas in exchange for having their charges reduced, or dropped all together.

Mathis is the only one who refused to make a deal. He's that confident a jury will find him innocent.

A jury is expected to begin deliberating Thursday.

[Special coverage: Veterans Charity Scandal]
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