Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Two Hernando men, one from Pasco arrested in Internet cafe crackdown

Joe Vanilla, wife Florence and an unidentified woman find this Spring Hill internet sweepstakes cafe closed Wednesday.


Joe Vanilla, wife Florence and an unidentified woman find this Spring Hill internet sweepstakes cafe closed Wednesday.

SPRING HILL — Two Hernando County men and one from Pasco are facing multiple charges in connection with a statewide crackdown on Internet gambling and sweepstakes establishments.

Anthony William Alascia, 52, and John Nichols Cucciniello, 46, both of Spring Hill, and Charles Bartlett, 69, of Hudson, were arrested Tuesday. According to affidavits, the men operated Gin Lin Sweepstakes locations at 3270 Commercial Way, 2402 Commercial Way and 7269 Forest Oaks Blvd. in Spring Hill.

Alascia faces two racketeering counts, four counts of possessing a slot machine, four counts of operating a lottery, four counts of keeping a gambling establishment and eight counts of money laundering/transferring more than $100,000.

Cucciniello faces two charges of racketeering, three counts of possessing a slot machine, three counts of operating a lottery, three counts of keeping a gambling establishment and six counts of fraud and money laundering of more than $100,000.

Bartlett faces a charge of maintaining a gambling establishment and 45 counts of possession of a coin-operated gambling device. All three were booked at local jails, then transferred to the Seminole County jail, where they are being held without bail.

The men were all linked to Allied Veterans of the World, a nonprofit organization that operates dozens of Internet cafes throughout the state and is the subject of a statewide racketeering and fraud investigation in which search warrants were sought for 50 sweepstakes locations throughout Florida.

At the cafes, customers buy Internet time loaded onto a card and get free sweepstakes entries they can reveal by playing games on computer screens that mimic slot machines.

In an affidavit filed in Oklahoma to obtain the search warrants, Internal Revenue Service investigators wrote that Allied "engaged in a conspiracy and scheme to defraud" the public into believing that proceeds from the sweepstakes were going to a charity affiliated with the Veterans Administration.

The Florida Times Union reported that three men associated with the Allied — Jerry Bass, head of the veterans group; Mike Davis, an executive with the group, and Kelly Mathis, the group's attorney — were arrested in connection with the investigation.

In addition, Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll, a former state lawmaker who owned a public relations firm that represented Allied Veterans, announced her resignation Wednesday, one day after she was questioned by authorities investigating the group.

Investigators with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the IRS on Wednesday carried boxes out of GinLin LLC 52 on Forest Oaks Boulevard and GinLin LLC 45 on at 2402 Commercial Way, two of the Internet sweepstakes locations run by Alascia, Cucciniello and Bartlett.

While the businesses remained closed Wednesday, a sign on the front door of the Forest Oaks location said it would reopen today.

Joe Vanilla and his wife, Florence, both regular players at GinLin LLC 45, were surprised to learn that the Internet sweepstakes business had abruptly closed. The couple said they intended to visit another Internet cafe in the same shopping complex.

Alascia and Cucciniello have several ties to the Spring Hill business community. Cucciniella is listed in state corporate records as owner of Extreme Fitness in Spring Hill. The men are married to Susan Alascia and Nikki Cucciniello, who are listed as principal owners of Passports Restaurant in Spring Hill. The women are not the subject of the state investigation.

In addition, state corporate records show that Anthony Alascia is associated with Jac Sweeps LLC, a company that operates an Internet sweepstakes room in Sarasota that was also part of the statewide investigation.

Bartlett has a history of gambling-related arrests. In 2005, he was charged with keeping a gambling house for an establishment at 3270 Commercial Lane. He pleaded guilty to a lesser charge.

Last year, after Pasco Sheriff's deputies raided Achievers Internet Sweepstakes in Holiday, Bartlett was charged with running a gambling establishment and 45 counts of owning slot machines. The disposition of that case was unclear Wednesday.

Bartlett also owned Reel Fun of Pinellas, a Palm Harbor Internet cafe that was shut down in 2011.

Staff writers Jon Silman, Tony Marrero and Octavio Jones and Times researcher Carolyn Edds contributed to this report. Logan Neill can be reached at or (352) 848-1435.

Two Hernando men, one from Pasco arrested in Internet cafe crackdown 03/13/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 13, 2013 9:24pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Rays morning after: Wilson Ramos showing glimpses of what's possible in 2018


    The real payoff for the Rays signing C Wilson Ramos last off-season will come in 2018, when he can play a full season fully recovered from right knee surgery.

    And Ramos is giving the Rays a pretty good glimpse of what that can be like.

    In Friday's 8-3 win over the Orioles, he hit a grand slam - …

  2. Buccaneers-Vikings Scouting Report: Watching Kyle Rudolph, Adam Thielen and Everson Griffen


    No matter how much film we study, no matter how much data we parse, we just don't know how an NFL season will unfold.

  3. Pinellas construction licensing board needs to be fixed. But how?

    Local Government

    LARGO –– Everyone agrees that the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board needs to be reformed. But no one agrees on how to do it.

    Rodney Fischer, former executive director of the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board Rodney, at a February meeting. His management of the agency was criticized by an inspector general's report. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]

  4. Sue Carlton: Job or family when a hurricane's coming — a very Florida conundrum


    It must seem as foreign to Northerners as shoveling snow is to those of us raised in the Sunshine State: The very-Florida conundrum of having to choose between work and family — between paycheck and personal safety — when a hurricane comes.

    A hurricane helps the rest of us acknowledge the police officers, paramedics, hospital personnel, public works employees and others who stay on the job despite the storm. 
  5. After Tampa concert, Arcade Fire members party, preach politics at Crowbar


    After waiting more than a decade for Arcade Fire’s first appearance in Tampa, fans didn’t have to wait long for their second.

    DJ Windows 98, a.k.a. singer Win Butler of Arcade Fire, performed at a "Disco Town Hall" at Crowbar following the band's concert at the USF Sun Dome on Sept. 22, 2017.