The Associated Press
MONTGOMERY, Ala. —
An Alabama man is in jail and his Georgia business partners are being sought on charges accusing them of operating illegal gambling establishments in Florida under the guise of helping veterans.
For years, Samuel Keeble was known in central Alabama for operating a small convenience store in Camp Hill, not far from his home in Dadeville.
Keeble is now under indictment for racketeering and multiple other felonies along with his business partners, Diane and Gary Davis of Hogansville, Ga. They are accused of running three illegal gambling businesses in northeast Florida — one in Jacksonville and two in Yulee, north of Jacksonville.
Keeble and the Davises operated “Internet cafes” that purported to give money to aid needy veterans when patrons bought time on video-style slot machines. Upon entering, patrons signed a registration form that claimed they were “not gambling,” investigators said. The indictments were revealed in the joint Florida state and federal bust of Allied Veterans of the World, an operation that portrayed itself as a charity helping veterans.
So far, 57 people have been charged in what officials called a “sophisticated racketeering and money laundering scheme.” About 60 locations were closed across Florida that officials said were affiliated with Allied Veterans and supplied it with proceeds.
Florida Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll resigned last week in the wake of an investigation. Carroll had provided public-relations representation to the operation before her election, but she has not been charged.
Investigators tracked money transfers across several states. Authorities said they showed $194 million, which was hidden through operators such as Keeble and the Davises. From 2008 through last year, the investigation revealed that less than 2 percent of the $300 million in gambling center proceeds was given to charity, while much went into the owners’ pockets.
Court records list the Davises and Keeble as owners of MSG Business Center, which sent direct deposits on a weekly basis to the Allied Veterans of the World’s bank accounts. A contracted payroll company issued checks back to affiliates.
Dadeville police Sgt. Jonathan Floyd, accompanied by U.S. Secret Service agents, arrested Keeble, 58, at his home on March 12. Floyd said that Keeble denied wrongdoing and said his business was legal.
“He seemed surprised. He said he thought we had the wrong person. It was a case of mistaken identity. But it wasn’t,” Floyd said.
Keeble is being held without bail as he awaits an extradition hearing. If he is extradited, he will be moved to the Seminole County, Fla., jail to await trial on federal and state charges.
Those charges include racketeering; conspiracy; manufacture, sale, possession of slot machines; keeping gambling houses; and money laundering. Officials said the three operations owned by Keeble and the Davises were closed, and the equipment was confiscated. Records showed they had been in operation since June 2007.
A woman who answered the phone at Keeble’s residence Tuesday and identified herself as Mrs. Keeble declined comment. Jail officials did not know if Keeble had hired an attorney. Keeble has no criminal history.
Diane and Gary Davis have not yet been arrested. Davis identifies himself as a musician and songwriter on his personal website. Court records list the couple as owners of a second location in Jacksonville that was not part of their operations with Keeble.
The Seminole County Sheriff’s Office reported that the items seized in the investigation include more than 400 computers and servers, 1,169 boxes of paper records, and 59 vehicles and vessels. Digital forensic specialists are also reviewing 470 computer hard drives.
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