Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll abruptly resigned amid law
enforcement questions about a Florida Internet sweepstakes company at the
center of a nationwide criminal investigation.
Florida Department of Law Enforcement interviewed Carroll Monday about her connections to the company, Allied Veterans of the World, a Florida-based non-profit that operates a chain of Internet cafes.
Carroll once owned a public relations firm that represented Allied Veterans, and she did work for the company at the same time she served in the Florida House. She resigned Tuesday.
It's unclear if Carroll is the target of any criminal charges. Attorney General Pam Bondi and law enforcement officials have scheduled a 2:30 p.m. press conference in Orlando to discuss the case. Gov. Rick Scott also has announced an afternoon press conference.
On Monday, leaders of the company and the head of Jacksonville's police union were arrested on charges of racketeering and money laundering. Investigators
Gov. Rick Scott's chief of staff, Adam Hollingsworth, said in a statement, that Carroll had "consulted" for Allied Veterans while serving as a member of the Florida House of Representatives in 2009 and 2010, and had been interviewed Monday by Florida Department of Law Enforcement officers "regarding her work with the company."
"Lt. Gov. Carroll resigned in an effort to keep her former affiliations with the company from distracting from the administration's important work on behalf of Florida families," Hollingsworth said. "She made the right decision for the state and her family."
In her two-sentence resignation letter, Carroll made no mention of the probe or her reason for resigning.
Investigators said that Allied Veterans tried to scheme and defraud the public and governmental agencies by misrepresenting how much of its proceeds were donated to charities affiliated with Veterans Administration. The Internal Revenue Service, Secret Service, FDLE and sheriff's offices in Jacksonville and elsewhere are all part of the criminal investigation.
Carroll's public relations firm, 3 N. and J.C. Corporation, is currently inactive, according to the Florida Division of Corporations. Scott's office said in 2011 that Carroll had ended her affiliation with Allied Veterans.
In 2010, Carroll was criticized for introducing legislation to legalize sweepstakes games such as those in cafes operated by Allied Veterans. Carroll later withdrew the proposed law, saying it was filed erroneously and that she wasn't interested in legalizing internet cafes, the Florida Times-Union reported.
Internet cafes are big business in Florida. Since 2007, as many as 1,000 have popped up across the state, according to industry estimates, raking in $1 billion a year.
Customers buy Internet time loaded onto a card and get free sweepstakes entries they can reveal by playing games on computer screens that mimic slot machines.
Allied is a big player in Florida. In 2011, it had 40 locations statewide. Allied has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on state lobbyists and contributed $25,000 for a Scott/Carroll inauguration event.
In addition to arrests in Jacksonville, authorities in Oklahoma have arrested the owner of a technology firm, International Internet Technologies,
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