TALLAHASSEE, Florida (WFLA) -- Florida's lieutenant governor resigned and nearly 60 other people were charged in a widening scandal of a purported veterans charity that authorities said Wednesday was $300 million front for illegal gambling.
Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll's resignation came a day after she was questioned in the investigation. Her public relations firm did work for the St. Augustine-based charity Allied Veterans of the World, but she has not been accused of wrongdoing.
Authorities said the probe involved 57 arrest warrants and 54 search warrants issued at gambling operations in 23 Florida counties and five other states: South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Nevada and Pennsylvania.
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi said charges, which will be formally filed next week, include racketeering, conspiracy, money laundering and possession of slot machines.
"It's callous and it's despicable," Bondi said of the alleged scam, which she said "insults every American who ever wore a military uniform."
Authorities refused to discuss any ties between Carroll, a 53-year-old Republican, and the investigation. Her aides had no immediate comment.
Carroll, a Navy veteran who served in the Gulf War, appeared in a TV ad in 2011 promoting the organization's charitable work on behalf of veterans and their families.
Carroll's resignation letter to Gov. Rick Scott offered no details about her reason for leaving, but the Republican governor said in a statement she resigned so her ties to the company would not be a distraction for the administration.
"I will not elaborate on the details of her resignation further, other than to say that she resigned and she made the right decision for the state and her family," Scott said.
Political analyst Dr. Susan MacManus said, in light of Carroll's ties to the charity, it is not surprising she chose to resign.
"She knows that the governor has a tough reelection campaign ahead and that this will be a distraction," she said. "And certainly a detriment to him, because, after all, he did select her as his running mate.
Dr. MacManus also said Carroll's situation may discourage other CEO's who would have considered making the leap from business to politics.
"I think some people might look at this and think this might be a deterrent to business CEO's and business managers from entering politics," she said.
Allied Veterans evolved from a charitable organization that ran bingo games and held bake sales for veterans beginning in 1979 to a group suspected of operating more than 40 illegal gambling locations around Florida, according to an Internal Revenue Service affidavit. The veterans' charity was a fraud, according to the IRS.
"In an effort to mislead the public into believing that it is not profiting from an illegal gambling enterprise, Allied Veterans and others have engaged in a conspiracy and scheme to defraud," the affidavit said.