JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A $4,000 check from the Vietnam Veterans of America presented to the Five Star Veterans Center on Friday represents more than money -- it's a stamp of approval and a boost in confidence the center needed as it recovers from being tainted by the Allied Veterans of the World Internet cafe scandal.
In March, after 49 Allied Veterans Internet cafes were raided and closed dozens of people were arrested, the state filed a civil lawsuit against the center.
The center -- once called the Allied Veterans Center -- had to show state regulators they were a valid operating service organization serving veterans, and not part of a racketeering and money laundering organization accused of taking in $300 million while only giving 2 percent to charities.
The center changed its name to Five-Star Veterans Center and worked out a settlement that will allow more than 20 veterans living there to stay and the center to move forward raising money without a cloud of concern.
"We want to close the book -- that was history -- and pick up and start again as the Five Star Veterans Center and move forward," said Director Col. Len Loving.
With the lawsuit filed by the state attorney's office settled in principal, a big block to fundraising has been removed.
"No one (knew) whether the state attorney general might decide to come and seize a bank account or something. Now were free of all that," said the center's attorney, Allen Poucher. "All the money -- 100 percent of the money -- that comes into Five Star veterans will now go to help the veterans."
Residents of the center like Robert Vansicke are also relieved. They had no where else to go.
"Just to think, if they wouldn't have been, there there ain't no telling what would have happened, where I would have been," Vansiclke said.
Just because you actually stumble and fall down, that doesn't mean that you should actually stay down," said another resident, Derrick Pearsey. "Get up and try. And the key word is try."
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