Aug. 02--An appeals court Friday ordered Florida and the Seminole County Sheriff's Office to return several million dollars and a yacht to a convicted Oklahoma gambling software producer, saying they were improperly seized following raid on a chain of Internet cafes across the state.
The case involves Allied Veterans of the World and the string of 50 storefronts raided March 13, 2013, by Seminole County deputies and state agents.
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and Seminole County Sheriff Don Eslinger described them as gambling halls disguised as Internet cafes that benefitted disadvantaged military veterans.
More than 50 people were arrested. One was Chase Burns, the 38-year-old Oklahoma man who came up with the computer software used in the storefronts that transformed personal computers into virtual slot machines.
He pleaded no contest to two counts of helping set up an illegal lottery in February and was placed on one year of probation.
The Fifth District Court of Appeal in Daytona Beach ruled Friday that all of his seized property, including a yacht and cattle company, had to be returned.
That's estimated at tens of millions of dollars.
The court agreed with Burns and his lawyer, Robert Leventhal of Orlando, that because none of the property was in Florida, it was not covered by the state's forfeiture laws.
Several months ago, Bondi's office and Burns agreed to a settlement that would have allowed Florida and the Sheriff's Office to keep a combined $7 million, but the Sheriff's Office did not sign off on it, according to court records.
In Friday's ruling, the appeals court ordered both agencies to return to Burns all of the seized money and property. It also ordered them to pay Burns' legal bills.
Bondi's office had no response, except to say it was studying the ruling.
The Sheriff's Office said it would not say why it had rejected the settlement until next week nor provide details on how much money was at stake.
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