Nearly 60 people face criminal charges for their role in a $300 million conspiracy orchestrated by Allied Veterans of the World, a purported veterans charity with an Internet cafe in Vero Beach federal agents called a front for illegal gambling.
Indian River County Sheriff's Office spokesman Jeff Luther said deputies on Wednesday morning assisted federal authorities in serving a search warrant at the Wave Business Center at 933 14th Lane in Vero Beach.
"I'm not sure if it was IRS or another agency, but we assisted them in security at (Majestic) Plaza," Luther said. "We weren't there for very long."
Justin Oh, a manager at Isziban Sushi at the Majestic Plaza in Vero Beach said he saw uniformed agents remove equipment from the business.
"About six or seven police were taking computer systems out," he recalled.
Some customers tried to get in, he added, but officers prevented their entry.
The widening gambling scandal dubbed "Reveal the Deal" also touched Florida's lieutenant governor Jennifer Carroll, who resigned Wednesday hours before federal and state authorities in Orlando announced arresting 57 suspects while serving 54 search warrants issued at gambling operations in 23 Florida counties and five other states: South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Nevada and Pennsylvania.
Carroll's resignation came a day after she was questioned in the investigation. Her public relations firm did work for the St. Augustine-based charity Allied Veterans of the World, but she has not been accused of wrongdoing.
Arrest reports made public Wednesday show Allied Veteran's Internet cafe in Vero Beach has been operated since 2009 by Horry Technologies, a Florida for-profit company owned by Ponce Inlet residents Anthony Parker, 56, who was arrested Wednesday in Volusia County; Cary Hardee, 64, who was not in custody Wednesday; and Leslie Collins, 42, who was arrested in Volusia County and transferred to the Seminole County Jail.
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi said charges, which will be formally filed next week, include racketeering, conspiracy, money laundering and possession of slot machines.
"It's callous and it's despicable," Bondi said of the alleged scam, which she said "insults every American who ever wore a military uniform."
From 2007 to early 2012, investigators found evidence of more than $6 million in what appear to be charitable donations by Allied Veterans. That amount, however, was only about 2 percent of the over $290 million made from gambling operations during that time period. Instead of going to veterans, the majority of the money went to for-profit companies including Horry Technologies, the individuals who operated Allied Veterans and its so-called "affiliates."
Authorities announced seizing about 300 bank accounts containing $64.7 million and assets including such exotic vehicles as Maseratis, Porsches and Ferraris.
Meanwhile, Vero Beach resident Troy Carrozza, 35, said Wednesday he was a customer for "a couple of years," starting when the Wave was known as Allied Veterans.
He said he'd put down $20 and play Internet games, or surf to other sites, for as long as he wanted.
"I would get on and play games sometimes," he said. "Last Thursday I won $180 off $20. But yesterday I lost $40."
Staff Writer Henry Stephens and The Associated Press contributed to this story.