First pleas among big players in Internet café theft case with deep Jacksonville connections

A Jacksonville lawyer publicly pegged as the mastermind of a massive scheme to use a charity as a front to making millions on Internet Café gambling said he has never considered any sort of plea deal in the case. Mathis is charged with racketeering and money laundering, but insists he wants his day in court to clear his name, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. In a rare move for someone facing serious Florida criminal charges, Mathis and his attorneys invited the media for a discussion with Mathis the day after another one of the alleged ringleaders of the criminal enterprise entered his own guilty plea in this Jacksonville Theft Case, as did three members of his family, the newspaper reported.

Johnny Duncan, former national commander of Allied Veterans of the World, pleaded guilty to five Florida felonies but didn’t fully admit that he committed any crime, the newspaper reported. Duncan’s attorney said his client, 66, suffers from serious health problems and the ongoing case was too stressful for him and his family, the newspaper reported. The key takeaway from the Duncan plea: Prosecutors agreed to recommend probation instead of prison time for Duncan, who has agreed to testify against the others involved in the case.

What prosecutors need from Duncan – or from somewhere in their case against Mathis – is proof of intent to steal and intentionally divert money alleged to be earmarked for charity. Mathis has said all along he was the attorney for Allied Veterans and was paid to research the legality of the operations and advise his clients, which he did, the newspaper reported. With Duncan’s less than hearty admission and a ruling from the judge that the gambling expert the state was planning to use cannot testify, it appears from the outside that the state’s proof in this Jacksonville Theft Case could be on shaky ground. The arrests made statewide headlines as more than 50 people were charged, including high-ranking officials within the Jacksonville Fraternal Order of Police. The cases are now based in Seminole County, where the warrants and investigation ended, though Mathis’ attorneys are asking the case be moved to Jacksonville, where most of the crimes are alleged to have taken place – and where most of the witnesses live. Mathis is using his right to a speedy trial, which means the state has to take the case to trial within six months of the arrest. The trial in this Jacksonville Theft Case, sure to get plenty of notice statewide, is set to begin in September.

If you or a loved one needs a criminal defense attorney in Jacksonville or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm at (904) 365-5200 for a FREE CONSULTATION. Our Jacksonville Theft Attorney, Victoria “Tori” Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.