A Northern Virginia bingo operator whose six children helped him run a million-dollar illicit bingo operation was sentenced yesterday to one year in jail and fined the maximum $20,000 on a felony gambling charge in Fairfax County Circuit Court.
Prosecutors had said that George L Berry, 47, an Alexandria man who ran a year-long Fairfax bingo operation on behalf of three youth organizations, had failed to account for almost a third of the $1,117,942 the games grossed in the county.
Berry and Alva Ford Thompson, owner of the now insolvent United Charities Inc., had conducted games in the names of three sponsoring organizations, the Mount Vernon Youth Association, the Pioneer League Baseball Club and the Lee District Basketball Club.
Thompson pleaded guilty to illegal gambling charges this month in Alexandria and Fairfax and faces sentencing in both jurisdictions next month.
Berry was sentenced last week in Alexandria to two years in prison and fined $15,000 for his role in bingo operations in that city.
Yesterday, Fairfax County Circuit Court Judge Thomas J. Middleton, noting Berry's claim that the only benefits he derived from the games was $32,000 in wages, remarked that the fines "wiped out" the salary.
"You will have worked a year, and with the Alexandria fine and this one, it is all wiped out. That is quite a punishment," Middleton said.
Berr's profits from the games were somewhat enlarged by work performed by his six children, four daughters and two sons, at the Bonanza Playhouse, 7520 Richmond Hwy., where the bingo games were staged in 1977 and 1978, prosecutor Steven A. Merril said in court yesterday.
Employment of his children, whose ages ranged from 17 to 26, netted the Berry family an additional $12,000, Merril said.
Berry, who has denied knowledge of what happened to the unaccounted for $346,000 in bingo receipts, conceded under questioning yesterday that his overall salary was considerably more than the $22,000 prosecutors say the three charities actually received from the bingo operation.
Bingo is legal under Virginia law, but the games must be held for approved charities and run by volunteers.