Group moves forward after Mathis verdict

Five Star Veterans Center works to distance itself from scandal

By Ashley Harding - Reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A central Florida jury convicted Jacksonville lawyer Kelly Mathis on Friday on more than 100 counts relating to the case.

One group that had been working to distance itself from the scandal is the Five Star Veterans Center, which had been run by Allied Vets.

Colonel Len Loving remembers the day when news of the Allied Veterans of the World scandal broke, and authorities arrived at his center to arrest one of the board members.

"I thought one of our residents had done something that I hadn't heard about because this was like at 7:00 in the morning," said Loving. "I don't know how they knew he was going to be here, but they did. It was a total shock because none of us saw it coming."

Fast forward seven months, his organization has separated from Allied Veterans, they've changed their name and as of Friday night, one of the key players in the scandal, Kelly Mathis, was convicted of more than 100 counts.

RELATED: Mathis guilty on 103 of 104 charges

Loving wants to remind everyone that his organization is a good one. It offers shelter to homeless vets, helps them get back on their feet, and is in no way involved with Allied Veterans, or its troubled past.

"We have a document that has been signed, it's a court order. It's been signed in Duval County court," said Loving. "It shows us as completely independent, no association with the previous board, no association with the previous name. It's now Five Star Veterans Center."

Loving said although he's relieved to put the memory of the scandal behind him, he says the separation from Allied Vets has come with a price.

As a result, his center no longer has the funding it needs to fuller operate. He said the rooms are occupied at half capacity. He said his staff hasn't been paid since last March and for now, he can't expand the program the way he'd like.

"They've been dedicating their time and effort to be able to do the things we're trying to do. That's why I'd like to see us be able to get a contract with the VA," said Loving. "It's not because of the -- being able to pay people, but being able to expand the program and being able to do more than what we're doing right now."

Mathis is scheduled to be sentenced next year, in February. But again, he's just one of 57 people who were arrested in connection with this case. Many of these defendants still have pending cases. One of those men, Nelson Cuba, has a pretrial hearing next month.

RELATED: List of pleas in Allied Veterans case

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