ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - A 9 Investigates case was blown wide open Tuesday after agents arrested the top leadership of the Allied Veterans organization -- the parent group of a string of strip mall casinos that operated locally and across the state, while generating hundreds of millions in revenue.
Heading up the Allied Veterans is Jerry Bass. He was arrested early Tuesday on illegal gambling charges along with several others in what agents described as a vast casino operation.
Allied Veterans was publicized as a charity benefiting veterans. But documents filed in federal court indicate only 2 percent of the more than $290 million generated by the casinos went toward donations for veterans. The rest went to for-profit companies, according to federal court documents filed Monday.
9 Investigates' George Spencer found that Bass, the organization's national commander, still had his reading glasses on his head when he stood for mug shot Tuesday.
That was shortly after he was arrested at an Allied Veterans office in Jacksonville, around 7 a.m. on charges of keeping a gambling house.
In November, 9 Investigates uncovered questionable real estate deals involving Bass and Allied Veterans.
Bass was the face of the supposed charities helping veterans. But the network of casinos was plagued with controversy. It included an Apopka location shot up during a robbery in 2011.
Many, including top U.S. prosecutors, now suspect that Allied's fundraising centers were "nothing more than illegal Internet casinos," according to 130 pages of documents filed in federal court. The papers lay out details of an elaborate investigation, which included casinos that operated across central Florida, from Volusia and Brevard to Seminole and Lake counties.
After investigating Allied's central Florida locations and the company behind its gaming software, the investigators say "Allied Veterans and others engaged in a conspiracy and scheme to defraud ..."
Real donations to veterans were "only about 2 percent of the over $290 million in proceeds made from gambling operations."
The rest allegedly went to for-profit companies and allied leaders, according to the court documents.
"There is probable cause to believe that Allied Veterans and others were involved in conducting, financing, managing, supervising, directing, and owning illegal gambling businesses in Florida involving slot machines that earned, after deducting prize pay-outs, over $290 million from 2007 to the present," states one of the documents filed in federal court on Monday.
Besides Bass, former national commander Johnny Duncan, corporate secretary Michael Davis and Tampa operator Anthony Alascia were also arrested Tuesday morning.
Spencer learned that two of Bass' former real estate associates were also taken into custody and he expects to hear of even more arrests. Meanwhile, the office of Allied's Jacksonville attorney was also raided.