JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A prominent Jacksonville attorney accused of masterminding a $300 million gambling ring disguised as a veterans charity says he simply advised his clients on legal matters and that prosecutors are trying to "force a connection" between him and the operation of the business.
During an hour-long interview with The Associated Press at his lawyer's office on Wednesday, Kelly Mathis said that his arrest last week has ruined his life and damaged his law career.
Mathis's eyes became red when he talked about how his family has stood by him since his arrest and release from jail on bond. He's been charged in state court with racketeering, money laundering and gambling-related charges.
"Lots of prayer," he said, when asked about the past several days. sure
Mathis, who is 49 and a former president of the Jacksonville Bar Association, is one of about 60 people charged in Seminole County, Fla., with running the now-shuttered Allied Veterans of the World, which operated 49 Internet parlors with computerized slot machine-style games.
Adding to the probe's notoriety, Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll resigned a day after she was questioned by investigators — though she isn't among those charged.
Those who knew Mathis say he's a well-respected, down-to-earth and hard-working lawyer who's not prone to wearing the silk shirts and shiny suits favored by some of his colleagues.
"I would have thought of him more as milquetoast more than mastermind," said Jim Bailey, the editor of a legal and business newspaper called the Jacksonville Daily Record.
Mathis said Johnny Duncan and Jerry Bass, the two men who once owned Allied Veterans of the World, sought his legal advice about seven years ago and he took the men and their company on as clients. He eventually became the registered agent for several Internet cafes owned by the organization.