JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The only person convicted after the 2013 statewide raid of a chain of internet cafes -- a conviction later overturned on appeal -- has filed a $50 million federal lawsuit against former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, former Seminole County Sheriff Don Eslinger and others.
Kelly Mathis, who was the attorney for Allied Veterans of the World, was one of Jacksonville's highest-profile attorneys and one of 57 people arrested in the crackdown on dozens of internet cafes across the state.
Mathis, who prosecutors called the mastermind of what they described as a $300 million gambling ring, was the only person put on trial in the case. The former Jacksonville Bar Association president was convicted on 103 racketeering and gambling-related charges related to his work for Allied Veterans.
His conviction was overturned in 2016. The state appealed the reversal to the Florida Supreme Court, which turned down another review of the case and later decided against retrying Mathis on the charges.
Mathis has since returned to private practice but claims authorities violated his civil rights, and he wants to clear his name.
"The tide has turned," Mathis said. "It is now time to make those who tried to do this to me -- that took away my livelihood, took away my practice, took away four years of my life -- to hold them accountable."
Mathis said when the raids on the Allied Veterans cafes occurred, it was a money maker for the state and the Seminole County Sheriff's Office.
"The sheriff (Eslinger) and the Attorney General's Office agreed to split all of the money that they seized. My estimates are about $20 million that they were able to get," Mathis said.
By law the money was supposed to go to charities. Mathis said he's unsure where the money ended up.
The Attorney General's Office sent a statement:
The Florida Attorney General’s Office is not a party to this litigation; however, if requested, our office may be involved in defending our current and former attorneys."
News4Jax did not immediately hear back from the Seminole County Sheriff's Office.