Florida Goes After Internet Cafes

Internet café operators in the Sunshine State may have thought they could resurface after the 2013 veterans’ charity scandal. But police in Florida are cracking down on the storefront casinos, and warn that they will continue to enforce the law.

14 warrants in five counties

Internet cafes in Florida have been put on notice: law enforcement in the Sunshine State will act aggressively to close up shops that offer illegal gaming.

“If you open up, we will be looking at you and initiating investigations to go after you,” Florida Department of Law Enforcement Assistant Commissioner Jim Madden told radio station WOKV.

The state’s Illegal Gaming Task Force has recently served 14 warrants in five counties on internet cafes. They seized computers, cash and business records as part of the raids. Seven internet cafes were raided in Duval County, and similar shops in Columbia, Marion, Brevard and Lake counties were also targeted by state enforcers. Thirteen additional warrants were served by city and county agencies in Lake, Brevard and Seminole counties.

“We warned the other facilities in the state of Florida that internet gaming, internet cafes were not going to be tolerated,” Madden said.

The action comes a year after a statewide scandal involving a purported veterans charity. Sixty people were arrested in the case, and Lieutenant Governor Jennifer Carroll tendered her resignation because of ties to Allied Veterans of the World. The group, which ran 49 internet cafes in Florida, donated just 6 percent of proceeds to veterans’ aid, and pocketed the rest?almost $300 million. Soon after the scandal broke, Florida Governor Rick Scott signed legislation banning the cafes.

“Allied Veterans wasn’t the only case we’re looking into or prosecuting,” said statewide prosecutor Nick Cox. “As long as people are going to basically thumb their nose at us and keep doing this, we’re going to keep coming. There’s been more of them in Jacksonville than anywhere else so far.”

WOKV legal analyst, trial attorney Mark Rubin, said, “If you want to go into that business now, after all this, then you probably need to have your head examined.”