Florida Gov. Rick Scott will step in to chair the 13-member Space Florida board of directors following the abrupt resignation March 12 of his lieutenant governor and the chairwoman of Space Florida, Jennifer Carroll.
Carroll quit amid a law enforcement probe into a Florida Internet sweepstakes company for which Carroll, a former state representative, once served as a consultant.
The company, Allied Veterans of the World, has been the target of a national criminal investigation.
“Individuals were arrested [March 12] for racketeering and money laundering charges in connection with Allied Veterans of the World’s illegal gambling companies,” Scott’s chief of staff, Adam Hollingsworth, said in a March 13 statement.
“Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll consulted for Allied Veterans while serving as a member of the Florida House of Representatives in 2009 and 2010,” Hollingsworth said. “She was interviewed by Florida Department of Law Enforcement officers March 12 regarding her work with the company.
“Lt. Gov. Carroll resigned in an effort to keep her former affiliation with the company from distracting from the administration’s important work on behalf of Florida families. She made the right decision for the state and her family.”
Questions about Carroll’s ties to the company first surfaced in 2010 when as a legislator she proposed a bill that would legalize sweepstakes games like those operated by Allied Veterans’ Internet cafes.
The Florida Times-Union reported that Carroll later withdrew the proposal, saying it was filed erroneously and that she was not interested in legalizing Internet cafes.
Carroll’s two-sentence resignation later did not mention the probe or her reason for quitting.
Space Florida spokeswoman Tina Lange said in an email to SpaceNews that in light of Carroll’s resignation, “the governor will serve as the board chair. Other than that, we are still learning the details of the situation.”
At a press conference March 13, federal, state and local officials said 57 people had been charged in connection with an alleged $300 million conspiracy tied to Allied Veterans, described as a “sophisticated racketeering and money laundering scheme stemming from 49 illegal gambling centers operating under the guise of ‘Internet cafes.’ The organization falsely claimed to be a charitable veterans’ organization, but instead deceived the public and government while lining the pockets of its operators.”
Allied Veterans began in 1979 as charitable organization running bingo games and bake sales to benefit veterans. Officials suspect it evolved into operating dozens of illegal, for-profit gambling locations around Florida.