Saturday, February 24, 2018
News Roundup

Defendant in Hernando sweepstakes cafe case enters plea

Charles P. Bartlett faced a host of felony charges after he was arrested earlier this year in connection with two Allied Veterans of the World sweepstakes cafes in Hernando County.

On Tuesday, the 70-year-old Hudson resident pleaded no contest to two counts of possessing a slot machine, a second-degree misdemeanor. The rest of Bartlett's charges, which included multiple counts of racketeering, conspiracy, money laundering and keeping a gambling house, were dropped by prosecutors.

The Circuit Court judge in Seminole County, where the Allied cases are being prosecuted, withheld adjudication and ordered Bartlett to pay court costs.

Why Bartlett's case resolved this way was unclear. His attorney, Jerry Theophilopoulos, declined to comment Wednesday. Nick Cox, statewide prosecutor for the state Attorney General's Office, could not be reached.

Bartlett was one of 57 Allied Veterans defendants arrested in March in 23 Florida counties and five other states. He was listed in an arrest affidavit as an owner, operator or employee of two Hernando cafes: Allied Affiliate 45 at 3270 Commercial Way and Number 52 at 7269 Forest Oaks Blvd. Number 45 had moved to 2402 Commercial Way by the time agents raided it.

Two Spring Hill men arrested in connection with the Hernando cafes, John Cucciniello and Anthony Alascia, face similar charges. Their cases are two of 17 still pending, said Whitney Ray, a spokesman for the Attorney General's Office.

Prosecutors said Jacksonville attorney Kelly Mathis and his associates built up a network of casinos by claiming they were businesses where customers could buy Internet time, when in reality most customers played slot machine games on computers and didn't use the Internet. The Internet cafes were being operated under the aegis of Allied Veterans of the World, but very little of the $300 million the affiliates earned went to veterans, prosecutors alleged.

A jury last month convicted Mathis on 103 counts of possessing slot machines, helping to operate a lottery and racketeering.

Michael Gold, a Tampa attorney representing Alascia and Cucciniello, said they thought their operations were legal. Gold said he is preparing to go to trial sometime next year.

"Kelly Mathis told them these businesses were legal and appropriate, and they followed the structure they were given to follow," Gold said.

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