On March 13, 2013, I was wrongfully arrested and accused of being the mastermind of a $300 million gambling organization, Allied Veterans of the World. Allied Veterans was a registered veteran’s organization that conducted a sweepstakes, lawful pursuant to §849.0935 and §849.094, Fla. Stat. The Sheriff of Seminole County believed that Allied Veterans was not operating a lawful sweepstakes but that it had, instead, crossed the line into illegal gambling.
The Captain of the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office had concluded that my legal advice that Allied Veterans was conducting a lawful sweepstakes was simply incorrect. If the legal advice was incorrect, he reasoned, I was actually assisting Allied Veterans to commit illegal gambling and was subject to prosecution. In fact, the vast majority of legal opinions were that my legal advice was correct and the Allied Veterans’ sweepstakes was lawful under existing law. In fact, the Allied Veterans’ sweepstakes was recognized as lawful by numerous law enforcement officers, numerous counties and municipalities, as well as virtually all legal counsel, both public and private. The Sheriff’s position had never succeeded in court. Two attempts at prosecution of similar sweepstakes operators had resulted in acquittal, trials that I personally handled. State and local attempts to change legislation to specifically make the sweepstakes illegal had failed.
I refused to consider a plea deal and my case moved forward to trial. Unexpectedly, the trial judge excluded all evidence that my legal advice was correct. I was convicted and sentenced to six years in jail. The appeals court made it clear that I served only as legal counsel to Allied Veterans and that the trial court had used the wrong standard to convict me. Moreover, the trial court had wrongfully excluded all evidence of my innocence. Recognizing that they could not establish that my legal advice was incorrect, the State dismissed all charges. All restrictions on my Florida Bar license were lifted by the Florida Supreme Court retroactive to 2013 in a unanimous decision. My complete vindication and exoneration have been widely reported. Currently, I am currently pursuing a civil lawsuit against the Sheriff, his counsel, and Captain as well as the former Florida Attorney General.