Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Public safety

Internet cafe owners stand to lose fortune, including Maserati, Harley, homes

SPRING HILL — Business boomed at two Spring Hill sweepstakes cafes in 2008.

That year, the cafes on Commercial Way and Forest Oaks Boulevard raked in a combined total of more than $4 million, authorities say.

By early 2012, that amount climbed past $20 million.

The sum is a significant chunk of the roughly $300 million in illegal gambling proceeds that investigators say were collected by 49 Florida cafes connected with a group called Allied Veterans of the World.

On Tuesday, two Spring Hill men associated with the Hernando cafes were arrested as part of a statewide dragnet by local, state and federal agencies. Anthony William Alascia, 52, and John Nicholas Cucciniello, 46, face charges of racketeering, keeping a gambling house, fraud and money laundering, among others.

A Hudson man connected to the cafes, Charles P. Bartlett, 69, was arrested on the same charges.

At a news conference Wednesday, Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Gerald Bailey said Allied Veterans, a purported charity based in Jacksonville, collected millions of dollars for itself but gave little money to veterans.

Authorities have arrested nearly 57 people in 23 Florida counties and five other states. Investigators are seizing slot machines and records from Allied Veterans gambling centers, as well as 80 vehicles and vessels, 170 properties, and 260 bank accounts estimated to hold $64.7 million.

The Seminole County Sheriff's Office, which launched the initial investigation that sparked the operation, has released two affidavits totaling more than 800 pages that offer details about each cafe, the suspects who ran them — and the assets they stand to lose.

Authorities say Allied used software to illegally operate slot machines under the guise of selling time on the Internet. Each gambling center was listed as an Allied Veterans of the World affiliate, but Allied never had a role in the day-to-day operation or management of the sites.

The goal, Seminole sheriff's Capt. James Gibson wrote in the affidavit, was "to disguise the true nature of the enterprise and its ownership and to deceive the public, government agencies, and law enforcement into believing the monies derived from the gambling centers was actually going to Allied Veterans of the World."

Allied funneled the gambling proceeds through for-profit corporations that paid more than $90 million to Allied Veterans management, its software provider and attorney, investigators say.

The corporations that ran the cafes around the state, meanwhile, reaped about $194 million in profits.

Only about $6 million went to veterans groups, authorities said.

The Hernando cafes, Allied Affiliates 45 and 52, were at 3270 Commercial Way and 7269 Forest Oaks Blvd. Number 45 had moved about a mile south, to 2402 Commercial Way, by the time agents raided it Tuesday.

Both Alascia and Cucciniello also ran a cafe in Manatee County, and Alascia ran one in Sarasota County, the affidavits state. Those two businesses brought in more than $2.4 million over about five years, investigators say.

The four cafes operated under the corporation names GinLin LLC and MegJon LLC.

How much Alascia, Cucciniello and Bartlett profited from the businesses is still unclear, but the government is set to seize money in bank accounts associated with the cafes and from the men's personal accounts.

The amounts currently in the accounts were not included in the affidavits, but a little over $7 million was deposited in one of the GinLin accounts between March 2010 and March 2012.

Also on a list of assets eligible for seizure are Alascia's 2011 Maserati GranTurismo and four of his homes in Spring Hill valued for tax purposes at nearly $300,000, property records show.

Cucciniello's assets eligible for seizure include a Harley-Davidson, an 11-foot Bombardier vessel and a 19-foot motorboat.

Bartlett's assets include two water scooters, a Chevrolet Corvette and a Dodge Ram.

All three men had their first court appearances Thursday in Seminole County. They are set to be arraigned May 7.

An attorney representing Alascia and Cucciniello could not be reached. Records show that Bartlett did not have an attorney as of late Friday.

Reach Tony Marrero at [email protected] or (352) 848-1431. Follow @tmarrerotimes and @hernandotimes on Twitter.

Comments
Argument over dog leads to fatal shooting in Polk County

Argument over dog leads to fatal shooting in Polk County

A Fort Meade man was killed Monday night and two others were wounded after Polk County deputies say they approached a man while searching for a lost dog.The shooting occurred around 6:45 p.m. at the home of suspected shooter Charles Peddycoart, at 41...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Deadly Sunday for swimmers in bay area waters

Deadly Sunday for swimmers in bay area waters

Two people drowned and another suffered life-threatening injuries in the waters of Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico on Sunday.Investigators said all three cases appear to be accidents, but the incidents stand as a reminder that summer, with vacation ...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Pinellas deputies arrest Mississippi man 31 years after sexual battery

Pinellas deputies arrest Mississippi man 31 years after sexual battery

SEMINOLE — She was 22 when deputies said a man forced her at knifepoint into the woods off Seminole Boulevard and sexually battered her in February 1987.The case went cold, but now the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office said it has arrested the man it ...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Tampa police seek driver who struck pedestrian and drove off

Tampa police seek driver who struck pedestrian and drove off

TAMPA — Police are seeking the public’s help in locating the driver who fatally struck a pedestrian on Sunday night and then drove off.The incident took place at 9:15 p.m. near the intersection of N Nebraska Avenue and E Linebaugh Avenue.No details a...
Updated: 11 hours ago
St. Petersburg teen, seven months pregnant, dies in Pasco crash

St. Petersburg teen, seven months pregnant, dies in Pasco crash

HUDSON — A 16-year-old St. Petersburg teen who was seven months pregnant was fatally injured in a crash Sunday night, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.The incident took place at 9:11 p.m. on Little Road south of Hudson Avenue. The teen, Emily ...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Tampa man rescued from near drowning in waters off Whiskey Joe’s

Tampa man rescued from near drowning in waters off Whiskey Joe’s

A Tampa man was hospitalized with life-threatening injuries on Sunday after he was rescued from a near drowning off the shores of Whiskey Joe’s Tampa Bar & Grill, a popular hangout on the beach of the Courtney Campbell Causeway.When police officers a...
Published: 06/18/18
Man caught in rip current, drowns off Lido Beach

Man caught in rip current, drowns off Lido Beach

A man who was swimming off Lido Beach got caught in a rip current and drowned Sunday night.According to the Sarasota Police Department, the unidentified man was swimming with a woman near Big Pass, a boater channel, around 10 p.m. before becoming cau...
Published: 06/18/18
Child, 1, killed in single-car crash in Ruskin

Child, 1, killed in single-car crash in Ruskin

RUSKIN — A 1-year-old child was killed Sunday night and four family members were hospitalized when their vehicle overturned into a ditch.Deputies, responding to the scene after receiving several 911 calls around 6:30 p.m., located the overturned vehi...
Published: 06/18/18
Tampa man drowns in waters near Gandy Bridge

Tampa man drowns in waters near Gandy Bridge

A Tampa man drowned Sunday night in the waters on the Pinellas side of the Gandy Bridge.According to Pinellas County deputies, 28-year-old Cruz Sales-Lopez was swimming with girlfriend Erika Fuentes Ambrosio, 33, near the northwest side of the Gandy ...
Published: 06/18/18
St. Petersburg teen, 16, and unborn child killed in Pasco crash

St. Petersburg teen, 16, and unborn child killed in Pasco crash

A St. Petersburg teen, 16, and her unborn child were killed Sunday night in a crash in Pasco County, according to a release from the Florida Highway Patrol. Emily Pearson was killed on Little Road at 9:11 p.m. She was a passenger in a 1997 Ford Rang...
Published: 06/18/18