NMG’s Lush, colleague Biesecker win Best of the States

482439_10151325024961623_666803172_nNMG member Tamara Lush of Florida and fellow reporter Michael Biesecker of North Carolina won the Best of the States competition on March 27.

Lush and Biesecker, following up on a “charity” Internet slot machine scandal that resulted in Florida’s lieutenant governor resigning and 27 other people being indicted, dug deeper. Investigating a prominent Jacksonville attorney at the center of the case, they discovered he was connected to a much larger gambling organization.

Biesecker used public records to identify the key figures in the murky multistate organization of charities and for-profit outfits. Lush’s connections in the Florida legal community and other source work helped her nab the first interview with the attorney, Kelly Mathis.

The reporting by Lush and Biesecker led to a second probe by state government officials, who waited until AP broke the story to announce the new investigation.

Matthis now is charged with racketeering, money laundering and more, accused of masterminding a $300 million gambling ring disguised as a veterans charity.

Meanwhile, other staffers on the project broke news as well. NMG members Gary Fineout, Mike Schneider and Curt Anderson of Florida documented that people in on the original sweepstakes chain donated upwards of $1 million to Florida and North Carolina political campaigns.

And NMG member Mitch Weiss, the Charlotte correspondent, profiled two men who’d helped build up the sweepstakes cafe business into an untaxed virtual rival to the casino industry.

Here’s the story from Lush’s interview with the attorney: