Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

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

Joe and Florence Vanilla were surprised to discover that the Internet sweepstakes cafe at 2402 Commercial Way in Spring Hill was closed Wednesday.

OCTAVIO JONES | Times

Joe and Florence Vanilla were surprised to discover that the Internet sweepstakes cafe at 2402 Commercial Way in Spring Hill was closed Wednesday.

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 tmarrero@tampabay.com or (352) 848-1431. Follow @tmarrerotimes and @hernandotimes on Twitter.

Internet cafe owners stand to lose fortune, including Maserati, Harley, homes 03/16/13 [Last modified: Saturday, March 16, 2013 12:34pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. St. Pete Beach to vote on loosening drinking rules for hotel guests

    News

    ST. PETE BEACH — The city commission will vote Tuesday night whether to allow alcohol on the beach.

    Registered hotel guests would be able to drink alcoholic beverages at their cabanas on the beach under a new rule the St. Pete Beach City Commission is considering. [Times files]

  2. HomeTeam 25: Volleyball rankings for Tampa Bay

    Volleyball Preps

    1. Plant

    Last season: 28-4

    This week: Thursday vs. Bloomingdale

    Plant High outside hitter Camryn Vogler (1) hits the ball over the net past St. Thomas Aquinas outside hitter Kirsten Klos (10) during the Class 8A state volleyball final between Plant High and St. Thomas Aquinas at West Port High School in Ocala, Fla., on Saturday, Nov. 12, 2016. St. Thomas beat Plant High 3-0.
  3. Florida ranks high for workplace equality between men and women

    Working Life

    When it comes to the workplace, Florida ranks fifth in terms of gender equality, a WalletHub study released Tuesday found.

    Florida ranks high in terms of equality between men and women in the workplace. Pictured is Sandra Murman, county commissioner in 2015, talking about the differences in pay between men and women. | [Times file photo]
  4. Is Ed Sheeran sexy? An investigation

    Music & Concerts

    Start with the guitar. Guitars are sexy, right? Historically, anytime anyone straps on a guitar, it's only a matter of time before they come running.

    Ed Sheeran, who sold out three shows at Madison Square Garden last year, opened for Taylor Swift’s “Red” tour and now has a new album called “x” (as in multiply), at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York, June 14, 2014.  ?  I don?  t look like your typical pop star,?   says the pint-size 23-year-old British folk singer with a mop of red hair and an unassuming mien. ?  I don?  t sing songs like your typical pop star.” (Jesse Dittmar/The New York Times) -- PHOTO MOVED IN ADVANCE AND NOT FOR USE - ONLINE OR IN PRINT - BEFORE JUNE 22, 2014.
  5. Survey: Few consumers shop for lower prices on health care

    Health

    Despite having more financial "skin in the game" than ever, many consumers don't make any attempt to compare prices for health care services, a newly released study found.

    Photo illustration. [istockphoto.com]