Charity scam heats up Florida politics

Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll resigns amid a scandal involving the Allied Veterans of the World, which is accused of funneling money to politicians.

By Jason Notte Mar 15, 2013 1:07PM
Lt. Governor Jennifer Carroll (© Phil Sears/AP) Say what you will about George Costanza's fake Human Fund charity from "Seinfeld," but at least it never used veterans as a cover story or ended up being a bottomless war chest for politicians.


The same couldn't be said for Florida's Allied Veterans of the World, which runs a nearly $300 million gambling operation featuring 50 Internet parlors of computerized games. Investigators say it was a scam, and they've charged nearly 60 people with not only diverting money from veterans but spending the take on boats, beachfront condos and exotic cars. Florida Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll (pictured) was among those questioned by investigators and has resigned as a result.


Carroll was the co-owner of a public relations firm, 3 N&JC, that worked for St. Augustine, Fla.-based Allied Veterans. Unfortunately for Carroll, that work included commercials featuring herself and a Navy veteran who served in the Gulf War touting the organization's work for veterans and their families.


What she didn't mention was that the untaxed, virtually unregulated industry was allegedly pumping more than $1 million into gubernatorial campaigns in both Florida and North Carolina, effectively greasing the would-be politicos who could shut it all down. State legislators and political parties also reaped the benefits. The Associated Press found that $1.1 million in contributions to the charity went into Florida campaign accounts from 2009-2012, and more than $150,000 went to North Carolina campaigns.


Of the $300 million given to Allied Veterans, only $6 million ever went to the veterans it claimed to assist. That's the same amount Jacksonville, Fla., lawyer Kelly Mathis, who allegedly came up with the Allied Veterans scheme, made from the operation.


A whopping 54 search warrants were issued in Florida and five other states -- South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Nevada and Pennsylvania -- as part of the Allied Veterans investigation. All of the company's 49 parlors in Florida were raided and shut down as authorities seized about 300 bank accounts containing $64.7 million, as well as sports cars and other property.


The political ramifications are a bit more broad. The Florida Republican Party received nearly $300,000, while the Florida Democratic Party has received nearly $150,000. Cash also found its way to legislators who had been on the fence about regulating or banning online gaming. Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla (R-Miami) took donations from four people who were arrested and from some companies linked to the scandal. He had been pushing a bill to regulate the operations instead of banning them.


Carroll said in a statement Wednesday that neither she nor her public relations firm was targeted in the probe, and she claimed she stepped down so she wouldn't be a distraction for Republican Gov. Rick Scott's administration.


With Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi already saying the "despicable" scam "insults every American who ever wore a military uniform" and Florida's Department of Law Enforcement saying the next step in the investigation will deal solely with the political contributions, Scott is likely already more distracted than George Costanza at a board meeting.


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14Comments
Mar 15, 2013 1:38PM
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2% to the cause for which it is suppose to support. ANY organization which gives less than 50% to who it is suppose to support should be shut down! Otherwise it is just a front and scam.
Mar 15, 2013 4:24PM
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As a Executive Director of a childrens 501c3 non profit and a Army veteran who served in the middle east, this is as disgusting as I have ever seen. People should be going to jail, INCLUDING the politicians that helped this scam happen.
Mar 15, 2013 4:58PM
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Both political Parties and all individuals that got funds from this Scam organization donations should give it all back.....and all the 54 individuals should get serious jail time and cough up the rest of the conspirators. Let's see how deep this rabbit hole goes. Carroll should come clean that she knew and the rest of the Senators that accepted donations should all pay the consequences.
Mar 15, 2013 5:06PM
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Thanks Florida, your state in beginning to make Arizona look like we aren't the only state so full of political crap that the state eye color has been proclaimed brown.
Mar 15, 2013 5:39PM
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All seized monies, equipment, real estate, etc, etc, should be given to Veterans Associations throughout the US and make the scammers do many, many hours of community service for the veterans.
Mar 15, 2013 5:50PM
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well do you all believe that the lung and heart asoc. are any less active in lining pockets?
Mar 16, 2013 3:28PM
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Unfortunately, most charitable organizations are fronts to make a few people rich.

Do your research before making charitable contributions. 
Mar 15, 2013 4:46PM
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The biggest charity scams are run by our government.....
Mar 17, 2013 1:03AM
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Questionable tactics, along with Voter Fraud in Florida has been on the Second pages too long..

 

The Republicans have pulled the wool over the Eyes of the Seniors, Immigrants, white and many black voters for years....And then a scam like this..?

Forget Community Service and all that shidt, arrest, prosecute and jail at the Federal Level..

Many elections should be faulted or monitored by a Voter Watch group from another Country..

Apparently the U.S. can't do it..

 

And we talk or whisper about Chicago or Illinois Politics, They don't even come close to this type of corruption that runs rampant in Florida...Shut it down.

Mar 17, 2013 7:42PM
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That's about as low as you can go.. 
Mar 16, 2013 2:23AM
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And someone thinks, it's only Dems that are scammers in Florida...

 

Hmmmmm, let me tell you about a couple Elections....And what I consider Voter Fraud ??

 

Hell, I guess you all know about that anyway, Right ??

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