An Alexandria promoter implicated earlier an investigation of Northern Virginia bingo games was arrested yesterday and charged with violating state gambling laws.
The arrest of Alva Ford Thompson marked the first charges brought by Alexandria's special bingo prosecutor Edward J. White, in the six weeks since he was appointed to investigate allegations of widespread irregularities in the city's $1.2 million-a-year bingo industry. The felony charge against Thompson is also the most serious brought against anyone involved in bingo games in the area investigation and carries a maximum penalty of $20,000 and 10 years in jail.
White said he decided to prosecute Thompson under the gambling statutes instead of the state's bingo law because Thompson's operation allegedly had grossed in excess of $2,000 and his operation continued more than 30 days. Violation of the Virginia bingo law is a misdemeanor and carries a maximum penalty of $1,000 and loss of the bingo permit.
"We had the intent alla long that if we ran into a gambling scheme we were not going to fool around with a misdemeanor statute," White said yesterday in an interview.
The Prosecutor said he expected additional arrests in the bingo investigation.
Neither Thompson, a show business promoter, who is the head of Metropolitan Talent Inc. in Alexandria, nor his attorney, James I. Burkhardt, could be reached for comment yesterday.
White said the charge against Thompson alleges that the bingo games he ran in Alexandria violated Virginia gambling laws because Thompson - not the charities on whose behalf he was running the games - received most of the profits. "We're going after the person who's running the games and getting most of the money," the prosecutor said.
"Thompson cannot operate bingo and have the money flow back to him because he's not a charitable organization," White said. "At that point, he's running a gambling operation."
In a sworn affidavit filed last month, Alexandria undercover police agent Kathleen Bralove said Thompson directed illegal bingo games skimmed from the profits and falsified financial data "to mislead and defraud" Alexandria authorities and the charitable organizations for whom he was purportedly running the games.
The affidavit was filed to obtain a search warrant which led to seizure of hundreds of documents relating to bingo operations from Thompson's office and from his home at 2303 Cavendish Dr. in Fairfax County, south of Alexandria.
Last month Fairfax County authorities directed three youth groups to "cease all bingo operations immediately" at Bonanza Playhouse Hall at 7520 Richmond Hwy., which Fairfax authorities say is a hall leased by Thompson for bingo games.
The affidavit by Bralove stated that in Alexandria Thompson conducted the illegal games at a bingo hall at 3819 Mount Vernon Ave. Bralove was employed by Thompson at the hall for about a month between April and May, during which time she said in the statement that Thompson bragged about the profits he took from the games and that he instructed his employees to say they were volunteers from the organizations listed as sponsoring the games.
Virginia laws regulating bingo state that the games may be sponsored by nonprofit or charitable organizations and that the persons running the games must be unpaid volunteers from the sponsoring group.
White said that if the Alexandria General District Court finds probable cause the charge against Thompson would be presented to a regular Alexandria grand jury that will meet in early July. The special prosecutor said he has not decided whether to ask for a special grand jury in the investigation.