ORLANDO, Fla. - 9 Investigates has uncovered just how far tainted money from strip mall casinos has spread among elected officials.
Eyewitness News has been on top of every development this week in the takedown of Allied Veterans' $300 million scheme.
Now, investigative reporter George Spencer has dug into its political contributions and he's discovered the group's shadowy money trail extends hundreds of miles out of state.
Allied Veterans affiliates looked like any strip mall storefront, but inside, prosecutors said, one Volusia location alone brought in $17 million.
And big chunks of tainted money ended up in the accounts of your state leaders.
“They had a very sophisticated operation of participating in the politics in Florida,” said John Sowinski of NoCasinos.org.
9 Investigates found none of Allied's Florida donations to politicians came under the Allied name.
Instead, money was sent from International Internet Technologies, which is based 1,000 miles away in Anadarko, Okla.
It was Allied's computer software provider.
Since 2009, IIT spread around almost $500,000 and $300,000 was handed out to dozens of candidates in the 2012 elections alone.
The Republican Party got the most of the share with $208,000. The Democratic Party for $46,000 and political committees received $165,000, Spencer said.
And they're allowed use the cash to support any candidates or causes with no tie to the original donor.
“They have disproportionate influence on the goings-on, particularly as it comes to regulating their industry,” said Sowinski.
Locally, state Sens. Thad Altman, Alan Hays and David Simmons, along with Rep. Steve Crisafulli and former Rep. Chris Dorworth, all received the maximum $500 contribution.
They're part of a much longer list statewide. Each of those local politicians distanced themselves from the money and most said they oppose strip mall casinos and had never before heard of IIT or its connection to Allied.
On Friday, the Republican Party of Florida announced they will donate $300,000 to the Florida Veterans Foundation, a nonprofit group, after learning that political contributions had been raised from an organization that now stands accused of using veteran's charities as a front for alleged illegal activity.
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