The game was the envy of other bingo operators in town, and to Dirgham Salahi and his Montessori School of Alexandria Inc., it was nothing less than a "miracle."
The school had started to run a bingo game in 1974, and used it according to Salahi, to climb from financial straits to monertary security in a few years.
But yesterday, when a special grand jury investigating Alexandria bingo operations, handed up bribery and illegal gambling indictments against Commonwealth Attorney William L. Cowhig, it charged unlawfully solicated $34,000 from Salahi and the school.
Neither Salahi nor the school was charged in the indictment, which accused Cowhig of accepting the money, "payable 1500 per week" in exchange "for his exercise of discretion as a public servant."
The Montessori game had long been known as the most successful in Alexandria, drawing large crowds three times a week to a building at 350 S. Pickett St. about two blocks from the school.
Salahi, who declined comment yesterday when asked if Cowhig had solicited money from him, had previously reffered to the bingo game as "miracle."
Salahi, who could not be reached for comment yesterday had referred earlier to the bingo operation as a "miracle"
In 1977, for example, the school cleared more than $240,000 from the games, a profit for the tax exempt organization of 43.9 percent.
Charles Craven, father of two students at the school, said yesterday bingo had been the school's "salvation." Before the games started, the school "was just going down the tubes," he said.
Theodore Street, who lives in the District and sends his two children to Salahi's school, agreed that the games were essential to the school's survival.
Lance Gilbert, director of the Montessori School of Cedar Lane, in Fairfax, said he could not comment on the situation at Salahi's school, but observed that most Montessori schools are "self-funded."
"Tuitions come in and salaries are paid and so forth," Gilbert said. "I have heard of Montessori schools getting in financial difficulties . . . but most are self-sustaining from the children's tuition." Gibert said tuition could run from about $700 to about $1,500 a year in the Washington area.