Eleven patrons of an Alexandria bingo hall were arrested and charged with illegal gambling Saturday night following an undercover raid on what police said were pre-bingo poker games.
Four Alexandria vice squad officers posing as bingo players observed two poker games at the Montessori School of Alexandria auditorium before arresting the players - four of them over 60 years old - and confiscating $150 in cash, police reported.
Police said they were responding to complaints of gambling at the auditorium, located at 350 S. Pickett St.
The school's bingo operation, formerly run by the school's director, Dirgham Salahi, figured in the recent bribery and illegal gambling trials of former Commonwealth's Attorney William L. Cowhig. Salahi testified that he skimmed money from the bingo receipts to "buy peace" for the operation. Cowhig was acquitted of the charges.
Charles Craven, one of the volunteers who supervises the bingo operation, said yesterday he did not realize the card game were illegal.
"When people wait for the bingo games to start, they play cards," Craven said. "Apparently somebody complained. For some reason the police raided the place."
Craven said the patrons "play cards every night. It's innocent."
Commonwealth's Attorney John E. Kloch said the 11 persons, who were immediately released, will face trial July 20. Penalty for the gambling offense, a misdemeanor, is a fine and up to 60 days in jail, Kloch said.