Jacksonville attorney 1st to face trial in Allied Veterans case

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Kelly Mathis appears in a Seminole County Courtroom March 13 at a first-appearance hearing on charges of racketeering, conspiracy, and dozens of charges each of possession of slot machines, keeping gambling houses and money laundering.

SANFORD, Fla. - The prominent Jacksonville lawyer who prosecutors say masterminded a veterans' charity that was actually a $290 million gambling operation will be the first of dozens of defendants to go to trial.

Jury selection starts Monday in Kelly Mathis' trial. It comes six months after Mathis and 56 other defendants affiliated with Allied Veterans of the World were arrested and charged with money laundering and other charges.

Several defendants have reached plea agreements with prosecutors.

Mathis says he merely gave legal advice. He says a conviction could send a chilling effect to other lawyers if his prosecution is successful.

The arrests led to the closure of nearly 50 Allied Veterans storefronts and inspired the Florida Legislature to ban the Internet cafes.  The investigation also led to resignation of Florida Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll, who had worked as an Allied Veterans consultant.

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