Florida Internet Cafe Lawyer Convicted

Earlier in the year a gambling scandal rocked Florida. The Lieutenant Governor was forced to resign and all internet cafes in the state were closed and 50 people were arrested. On October 11th attorney Kelly Mathis was convicted of using a fake veteran’s organization as a front for an illegal gambling operation that took in about $300 million. Jurors in the case deliberated for 14 hours over two days before reaching their decision to convict. Mathis was found guilty of possessing slot machines, racketeering and operating a lottery. Mathis was released on bond and will be sentenced in February 2014. Mathis was found guilty on all but one of the 104 counts against him.

Mathis is facing dozens of years behind bars and said the jury’s decision was “shocking” while leaving the courtroom. Mitch Stone, Mathis’s defense attorney said the case is far from over. Mathis’s attorneys said they were hampered by the judge’s ruling that prevented the evidence they could introduce. Mathis told reporters as he left the courtroom “I gave legal advice as an attorney; that’s all I did. Attorneys all over the nation need to be very afraid when six years after you give legal advice, somebody disagrees with that legal advice and they convict you of a crime.”

State prosecutor Nick Cox said he felt no joy convicting a fellow attorney. Cox told reporters “You can’t use the practice of law as a shield. It doesn’t make me happy to convict a lawyer. What message does that send to the public?” Mathis was the first of 57 defendants to go to trial. The case led to the resignation of Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll who had worked with Allied Veterans as a consultant. Carroll has not bee charged with any crimes. Prosecutors say that Mathis and his co defendants set up casinos throughout the state claiming customers could buy internet time. In reality most patrons played slot style games and did not use the internet.

The internet cafes were operated under the aegis of Allied Veterans of the World but very little of the $300 million actually went to veterans. Top state officials were listed as potential witnesses by defense attorneys but were not called. The closure of the cafes had one unexpected outcome; bingo halls throughout the state reported a sudden increase in player numbers. Some players said they also played internet bingo after the cafes were closed.