JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Nearly four weeks after she resigned as Florida lieutenant governor the day a Internet cafe scandal became public, Jennifer Carroll said was taken by surprise by the criminal allegations against Allied Veterans of the World, and even though she knew nothing of any illegal activity, she was asked to resign
"I didn't do anything wrong, but the decision to step away from office was the right decision because, clearly, my name, being the top elected official and the title that I had brings sensational stories," Carroll said. "It would have detracted from the governor doing his work -- his legislative agenda and his political campaign."
Carroll set no ground rules for an extended conversation with Channel 4's Kent Justice -- her first interview since the March 12 resignation.
Carroll, who lives in Fleming Island and represented Clay County in the Florida Legislature prior to joining Rick Scott's ticket for governor in 2010, said her questioning by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement was appropriate because she did work for Allied Veterans while she was a elected official. She said the work was limited to public relations and she never lobbied for the organization.
"I had a one-year contract to do public relations," Carroll said. "When I joined the campaign -- the Scott campaign -- is when I terminated that contract."
Carroll said that seconds after the FDLE agents left her officer, Scott's chief of staff -- Adam Hollingsworth -- told her the governor asked that she resign.
"As a good soldier and military person, when the commander-in-chief gives a direct order, you abide," Carroll said. "The governor has a state to run and he doesn't need to be distracted for things like this -- which doesn't have any merit."
While she got a note from Scott thanking her for her service, Carroll said she has not heard from him since her resignation.
Scott's office wouldn't talk about the specifics of her resignation, other than to say she agreed her past relationship with Allied Veterans would be a distraction.
"Out of respect to her and her family, we are not commenting further about her discussions with our office or law enforcement, except to say that she made the right decision," said Scott spokeswoman Melissa Sellers in a written statement.
Allied Veterans had about 50 so-called Internet cafes, which authorities said were actually small casinos. The stores sell customers time online at computer terminals that feature sweepstakes games that simulate slot machines
Nearly 60 people have been charged in the Allied Veterans case, accused of running a nearly $300 million gambling ring. Investigators said Allied Veterans spent just 2 percent of its profits on veterans charities while its leaders spent millions on boats, real estate and sports cars.
SPECIAL SECTION: Internet Cafe Scandal
Carroll said she was fooled by Allied Veterans and thought they were doing legitimate work.
"Allied Veterans was claiming to help our veterans," Carroll said. "As a matter of fact, in 2010 there was an event were Allied Veterans gave out over a million dollars to ROTC scholarships, to disabled American veterans, to our veterans nursing homes and other organizations, so I don't know what their financials are and didn't know what they were bringing in, but a million dollars to me is a lot of money."
Carroll said she was taken by surprise when questioned about illegal activities by the chain of Internet cafes.
"Not knowing the internal operation, I can say in hindsight or retrospect that I couldn't say anything differently, because not being involved in a company's business, I wouldn't know any different."
Carroll said she doesn't feel tainted by the Allied Veterans scandal and doesn't feel her political life is over.
"Once the free time flows, I'll be able to commit to helping anyone run for office, to helping organizations do their political events, etc.," Carroll told Justice. "If the needs be and the timing is right to run for an office, so be it. We'll make that move when the time comes and it feels good and it's good with my family."
Carroll answered questions for more than 30 minutes. The entire interview will air at 9 a.m. Sunday on This Week in Jacksonville.
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