Trial begins in Internet cafe scandal

Veteran's charity was alleged gambling operation

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ORLANDO, Fla. -  Florida's statewide prosecutor told a jury that a Jacksonville attorney "gamed" the legal system in creating a network of gambling centers throughout Florida under the guide of a charitable veterans' group.


Statewide prosecutor Nicholas Cox told jurors Thursday that attorney Kelly Mathis built up the network of casinos by claiming they were businesses where customers could buy Internet time.

Prosecutors say Mathis and the operators of Allied Veterans of the World were running a mostly bogus charity that got its money from dozens of casinos masquerading as Internet cafes throughout Florida.

In opening statements of Mathis' trial Cox noted that most customers at the Allied Veterans' Internet cafes played slot machine games and didn't use the Internet. He also said very little of the $300 million generated by the Internet cafes went to veterans.

Mathis is pleading not guilty to dozens of charges. He claims he only gave legal advice and did nothing wrong.

The arrest of Mathis and 56 others prompted the Florida Legislature to ban the storefront Internet cafes.

It also led to the resignation of former Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll, who had worked as a consultant.

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