orangeleader.com (Orange, Texas)

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March 20, 2013

APNewsBreak: Alleged head of charity scam talks

(Continued)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. —

Under Florida law, a company must have a registered agent to be responsible for receiving important legal and tax documents; many companies use lawyers.

"There is no connection. They're trying to force a connection," Mathis said of prosecutors. "And that's all they've got, is to say that I was the registered agent, that I had some relationship to all of these companies. And the relationship they've got is that I was the registered agent. But what they fail to realize is that's no relationship at all."

Mathis, who went to high school in Brooksville, Fla., and law school at Vanderbilt University, opened his own practice about nine years ago in Jacksonville after working at larger firms.

Mathis said he researched whether Internet sweepstakes cafes were legal in Florida.

"I spent months researching this in-depth, of sweepstakes law, gambling law, to make sure they didn't violate any of the gambling laws," he said. "Reading cases, reading statutes. Reading legislative history. Gathering all of that information before I ever issued them an opinion. That this is what they could do and needed to do in order to comply with Florida law."

At issue is the legality of the games. To play, customers get prepaid cards and then go to a computer to play "sweepstakes." The games, with spinning wheels similar to slot machines, have names such as "Captain Cash," ''Lucky Shamrocks" and "Money Bunny." Winners go back to a cashier with their cards and cash out. Lawmakers in Florida and other states are now considering whether to ban them.

The game makers argue they are legal sweepstakes because there's a predetermined number of winners, similar to a McDonald's Monopoly game or Coca-Cola's cap contest.

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