Internet cafe scheme: One year later

By Erica Rakow, General assignment reporter, erakow@wjxt.com
Published On: Mar 12 2014 05:49:07 AM EDT
Updated On: Mar 12 2014 10:27:12 AM EDT

VIDEO: One year has passed since the bust on internet cafes that led to the resignation of Florida's lieutenant governor and the arrests of Jacksonville Sheriff's officers. March 12, 2013 uncovered years of illegal gambling and racketeering, involving Allied Veterans of the World. Fraternal Order of Police President, Nelson Cuba, and Vice President, Robbie Freitas, were the first to be arrested.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -

Wednesday marks one year since two Jacksonville Sheriff’s Officers and officers for the Fraternal Order of Police were handcuffed, taken in questioning and then arrested.

Police uncovered years worth of illegal gambling and racketeering, and what has now become known as the Allied Veterans of the World case.

FOP President Nelson Cuba and Vice President Robbie Freitas were the first two of many to be arrested.

Cuba (pictured) and Freitas are just two of 13 defendants whose cases are still pending. Most of them have pleaded guilty and aren’t serving jail time. The exception so far is Kelly Mathis, a Jacksonville attorney who was convicted and sentenced to six years in prison.

It was an investigation that uncovered a $300 million illegal gambling operation, arrested 57 people, convicted a Jacksonville attorney and led to the resignation of Florida’s lieutenant governor.

“What the state argued at trial and what they continue to argue throughout the course of events, was that this was clearly illegal, was that there was no question in their minds, that it was illegal from the start and that it continued to be illegal,” said Attorney Mitch Stone.

Stone is representing Mathis, who is at home while they appeal his case for several reasons, including other Internet café’s operating under advice from other attorneys who were never cited.

Meanwhile, the cases against former FOP officers Cuba and Freitas are still pending.

The two were linked to five Allied Veterans affiliates in Duval and Nassau Counties.

Channel 4 obtained pictures of the two of them at a bank withdrawing money, sometimes up to $9,000 at time. While JSO investigated two of their own, they found the secret service and two other sheriff’s were doing the same. Together they uncovered the complex money laundering scheme that brought in $300 million and only gave 2 percent to charity.

The defendants' attorneys continue to analyze the case and fight for their clients, including Stone, who stands by the fact that although already found guilty of 103 counts by a jury, Mathis (pictured) was only providing legal advice for an operation he didn’t know was illegal.

“There was a reason Kelly Mathis came to the conclusions he came to and it was because he studied the law, he understood the law, he analyzed it. He did more than any government lawyer ever did in this type of case and he knew it and he was confident in his analysis and the judge wouldn’t allow us to present that,” said Stone.

Around 60 Internet cafes around Jacksonville have re-opened since the Allied Veterans Internet scheme was uncovered.

"My understanding is that the new... the new games that are being played essentially are the same thing as the old games. The difference is that what you see on the screen are not the traditional slot machine type imagery,” said Stone.

Lawmakers and sheriff’s are still probing their legality.

“It wasn't illegal then and it's not illegal now. If the legislature truly wants to change the law than they have to essentially remove electronic sweepstakes from the potential gaming industry,” said Stone.

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