A story in Saturday's editions of The Washington Post incorrectly reported that a special prosecutor was appointed to investigate allegations that Alexandria Commonwealth Attorney William L. Cowhig had himself run illegal bingo games in the city. Actually, Cowhig once helped organize an Explorer Scout troop which staged bingo games until the national Boy Scout organization protested their involvement with bingo, a form of gambling. After the protest, the games were stopped.
Two men have been arrested and charged with operating illegal bingo games in Alexandria in what police officials say will be the first in a series of arrests in connection with the operation of bingo games in the city.
The two arrested have been charged with running bingo games without required permits and operating them for organizations not considered charitable groups, a required by Virginia law.
The arrests are the first since allegations surfaced in March of widespread irregularities in bingo game operations in the city. Last week a special prosecutor was appointed to investigate following allegations that Commonwealth's Attorney William L. Cowhig had himself run illegal bingo games in the city.
The two men arrested in the past week were identified in Alexandria General District Court towards as James R. Fike of 237 E. Monroe Ave. and John Keator of 3819 Mount Vernon Ave. The men were arrested on a warrant sworn out by finance director Howard J. Holton, who was in charge of issuing bingo permits until Alexandria officials decided that the city council would issue them.
Holton said yesterday that Fike had run an illegal game for B. & J. Specialities, a company that manufactures desk top items such as pen sets. Holton said he rejected Fike's request for a bingo permit in January because Holton did not believe the company is a charitable organization.
Court records say Fike ran an illegal game for the company on Jan. 17, but the warrant was not served until April 7.
Keator is charged with running a game for the Bucknell Football and Basketball Association. The games were held at a bingo parlor on Mount Vernon Avenue where three alleged illegal games were held in May 1977 by the Explorer Post 885 of Alexandria, a group that Cowhig said he organized.
Keator is scheduled to go to trial May 16, while Fike's trial has been scheduled May 22.
Although attention has forcused on the illegal games that have operated in Alexandria, the city's $1.2 million bingo industry includes dozens of games run by charitable organizations, some of which are also being looked into by the police and the special prosecutor.
Under Virginia law, only charitable organizations may operate bingo games and they must have been in existence at least two years before they can be issued a permit to run games. In addition, only members of the organization sponsoring the games may work at the bingo hall.
An Alexandria police investigation earlier this year revealed that a number of games were being run by organizations that did not qualify under the state law and that in some cases bingo operators charged game sponsors what have been described as "exorbitant" rents for the bingo halls. Last week the Alexandria City Council imposed a 5 percent tax on revenues from bingo games to require stricter financial accounting be the operators.