57 Charged in Fla. Gambling Scandal Tied to Lt. Gov.'s Resignation

By GARY FINEOUT and MIKE SCHNEIDER
|  Wednesday, Mar 13, 2013  |  Updated 3:23 PM EDT
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57 Charged in Florida Gambling Scandal

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Florida's lieutenant governor has resigned.

A sweeping multistate investigation of a purported veterans' charity based in Florida has led to nearly 60 people indicted and the resignation of the state's lieutenant governor.

Florida Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll once did public relations for the charity Allied Veterans of the World. She was questioned in the investigation, but she has not been charged with wrongdoing.

Authorities said Wednesday they have issued 57 arrest warrants in Florida and five other states. Attorney General Pam Bondi says charges will include racketeering, conspiracy, money laundering and possession of slot machines.

Carroll announced her resignation Wednesday, a day after she was questioned by authorities investigating an Internet cafe company that she once represented.

Carroll's resignation letter to Gov. Rick Scott, dated Tuesday, offered no details about her reason for leaving. But Scott's chief of staff, Adam Hollingsworth, said she was interviewed by Florida Department of Law Enforcement officers Tuesday regarding her work with Allied Veterans of the World.

She resigned to ensure her ties to the company would not be a distraction for the administration, he said. Carroll, a Navy veteran, had owned a public relations firm that represented that company.

While serving as a state lawmaker, Carroll's ties to the company were also questioned when she proposed a bill that would benefit internet cafes.

Carroll's aides said they had no immediate comment Wednesday.

The owner of Allied Veterans was arrested Tuesday in Oklahoma on charges of racketeering. He is accused of making $290 million after supplying illegal gambling software in Florida and claiming the games' proceeds would benefit a veterans group. Oklahoma authorities say the group actually received only 1 percent of the money. Chase Egan Burns, 37, and his wife, 38-year-old Kristin Burns, both face extradition to Florida to face the charges.

Chase Burns owns International Internet Technologies in Anadarko, about 60 miles southwest of Oklahoma City.

He and his wife were arrested after an investigation that spanned several years and involved the Internal Revenue Service and various law enforcement agencies in Oklahoma and Florida, including the sheriff's office in Florida's Seminole County, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt's office.

Chase Burns was released from the Caddo County jail Tuesday afternoon on a $500,000 bond. He denied any wrongdoing.

"What we do is legal," he told The Oklahoman on Monday, the night before he turned himself in to local authorities.

His father, Tony Burns, also serves as his attorney. Tony Burns told the newspaper that his son broke no laws.

"What Chase was doing was he was actually selling the Internet time," Tony Burns said. "That's was what his business was — providing the software. And there's nothing illegal about providing software to any business."

Tony Burns did not return a call seeking comment from The Associated Press.

A telephone number listed for Allied Veterans in St. Augustine has been disconnected. Multiple emails sent by The Associated Press to an address listed on the group's website weren't returned Tuesday evening.

The former lieutenant governor — who is the mother of Miami Dolphins defensive back Nolan Carroll — has been named in previous scandals.

Last year, a former aide, Carletha Cole, claimed to have found Carroll in a compromising position with a travel aide inside's Carroll's office.

Cole is charged with violating state law for allegedly giving a recording of a conversation with Carroll's chief of staff to a newspaper reporter.

Cole says she was ordered by Ramos to find adjoining hotel rooms for Carroll and Ramos when they traveled. Carroll has said previously the allegations are an attempt by Cole and her attorney to get the criminal charges against Cole dropped.

Carroll, a married mother of three, became the brunt of late-night talk show hosts when she defended herself against the allegations, telling a Tampa Bay area TV station that black women who look like her "don't engage in relationships like that." She later apologized for the remarks, which implied that black lesbians are not attractive.

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