SANFORD, Fla. -- The commander of a veterans' charity that prosecutors claim was a $300 million gambling operation pleaded no contest on Friday.
Jerry Bass, who was the top officer in the nonprofit Allied Veterans Of The World, entered a no contest plea to two counts of operating a lottery. The plea allows him to avoid prison time.
"Mr. Bass is a 63-year-old man who has been a pillar of the Jacksonville community for a number of years, and I think what caused them some concern early on was the fact that for years they believed these enterprises were legal," said defense attorney Charles Hobbs. "They met with a number of individuals who were prominent in the state government both in the agriculture department, and Gov. Rick Scott as well as attorney general Pam Bondi."
Bass will also not have to serve probation and the judge withheld adjudication which in legal speak, means he will have no felony criminal record. In return, he will have to testify as a witness for the prosecution and defense during the trial of other defendants, which is set to start next month.
Another defendant, John Hessong, was given the opportunity to enter a pretrial diversion program.
The investigation into Allied Veterans led to the resignation of former Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll after she was interviewed during the probe. She has denied wrongdoing and wasn't charged.
Florida Legislature banned the operations known as Internet cafes following the arrests of the 57 Allied Veterans defendants.
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