Alva Ford Thompson, described by Alexandria's special prosecutor as "the chief man" behind a lucrative network of Northern Virginia bingo games, was sentenced in Alexandria yesterday to two years in prison and fined $15,000 for illegal gambling.
Thompson had pleaded guilty to two counts of illegal gambling Jan. 8. Special Alexandria bingo prosecutor Edward J. White agreed to drop three other gambling felony charge in exchange for the plea. Thompson is awaiting sentencing on another bingo-related gambling charge in Fairfax County.
"This city wants to control gambling. This city means business," White told Alexandria Circuit Court Judge Franklin P. Backus during an hourlong hearing yesterday.
Thompson admitted conducting the illegal games at 3819 Mount Vernon Ave. on behalf of St. Paul's Pentecostal Church. The operation grossed approximately $282,000 over a five month period last year, according to White. The prosecutor has said the St. Paul's games netted $76,000, but the church received only $2,200 in bingo receipts.
Under state law, bingo games must be sponsored by charitable organizations and staffed by unpaid volunteers.
Thompson also pleaded guilty to conducting games last February with no sponsoring organization. According to White, $65,000 in cash was unaccounted for."It must be presumed," White said in Thompson's probation report "that the bulk of this figure went to the defendant."
White told the court that Thompson had "bilked" the church in a "reprehensible stunt."
The probation report said that Thompson, 47, maintained that he was misled by city officials and did not understand the bingo laws.
Backus sentenced Thompson to five years in prison with three years suspended, fining him $20,000 with $5,000 suspended.
Defense attorney T. Brooke Howard argued against incarceration, said the state's bingo law is deficient and questioned whether Thompson is guilty of a felony.
"I see cheat," White shot back. "I see fraud. I see a major gambling operation run by Fordie Thompson."