TALLAHASSEE -- Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll abruptly resigned Tuesday after law enforcement officials questioned her about ties to a purported veterans charity organization at the center of a $300 million multi-state racketeering investigation.
Florida law enforcement officials would not say if Carroll, 53, is facing possible criminal charges in connection with the case. Gov. Rick Scott also would not comment. Scott said he would not name Carroll’s replacement until the end of the annual legislative session in May.
“She resigned, and she did the right thing for her state and for her family,” Scott said.
At issue is Carroll’s connections to Allied Veterans of the World, a Florida nonprofit that operates a chain of Internet sweepstakes cafes as a pseudo-charity. Nearly 60 people associated with the company were arrested this week on various charges, including illegal gambling, racketeering and money laundering.
Carroll owned a public relations firm that represented Allied Veterans, and as a member of the Florida House of Representatives, did work for the company. She later filmed an advertisement promoting Allied Veterans while serving as lieutenant governor.
Carroll resigned in a two-sentence letter after meeting with the governor’s chief of staff, Adam Hollingsworth, and general counsel Pete Antonacci. She did not meet with Scott.
It’s a quick and remarkable fall for someone who had been seen as important figure in the Florida Republican Party.
Born in Trinidad, Carroll, a former U.S. Navy lieutenant commander, was the first African-American Republican woman elected to the Legislature and the first African-American woman elected lieutenant governor. She was considered a favorite to be named Charlie Crist’s lieutenant governor in 2006 before Scott selected her four years later.
She was a delegate to the Republican National Convention in 2012 and led a task force studying Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” laws. She could not be reached Wednesday.
“Lt. Gov. Carroll resigned yesterday in an effort to keep her former affiliations with the company from distracting from our important work on behalf of Florida families,” Scott said. “We appreciate her willingness to step up and serve our state. She was a tireless advocate for Florida’s military and our mission to create more jobs. We are grateful for her service.”
Carroll attended Scott’s March 5 State of the State address but did not speak. Her last major public remarks came March 3, where she spoke at a dinner honoring Scott sponsored by the Florida Federation of Republican Women.
Her official calendar for Wednesday — which was released Tuesday evening — listed no public events.
The investigation into Allied Veterans started in 2009, according to law enforcement officials, who said Allied Veterans tried to scheme and defraud the public and governmental agencies by misrepresenting how much of its proceeds were donated to charities affiliated with Veterans Administration.
So far, nearly 60 people have been arrested in 23 Florida counties.
Carroll’s public relations firm, 3 N. and J.C. Corporation, is currently inactive, according to the Florida Division of Corporations. But the company’s primary source of income in 2009 and 2010 was Allied Veterans, financial disclosure forms show.