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Judge Dismisses Charges in Bingo Case : 3 Were Accused of Illegally Profiting in Cooper Fellowship Games

December 18, 1985|MARK LANDSBAUM | Times Staff Writer

Misdemeanor charges were dismissed Tuesday against three men, including former Anaheim Mayor W.J. (Bill) Thom, who had been accused of illegally profiting from Hawaiian Gardens bingo games run by the Santa Ana-based Cooper Fellowship, a nonprofit alcoholic rehabilitation program, the defendants' attorney said.

Los Cerritos Municipal Judge Joseph A. Farina dismissed charges in the Bellflower court against Thom, Santa Ana real estate broker Tom D'Alessandro and John Zeolla, owner of North Hollywood Marble Co., according to defense attorney Ronald Davis.

The charges were dismissed on a motion by the prosecution, Davis said. The defense had moved earlier to dismiss charges against those defendants and three others.

Davis said amended charges will be filed Dec. 26 against remaining defendants Jack A. Blackburn, founder and executive director of the tax-exempt organization, and Robert Ellis and Larry Hayden, two Cooper Fellowship employees. Blackburn, Ellis and Hayden had been charged with illegally receiving salaries from bingo proceeds.

Blackburn remains free on $1,500 bail, and Ellis and Hayden are free on their own recognizance, Davis said.

D'Alessandro and Zeolla had loaned money to the nonprofit corporation for start-up costs for the bingo games and were repaid in 1984 from bingo proceeds. Thom was paid $10,400 in 1984 for "community and public and professional services."

D'Alessandro declined comment Tuesday. Thom and Zeolla could not be reached.

Cooper Fellowship's bingo games have grossed about $27 million in two years and brought the alcohol rehabilitation program about $8 million in revenue during that period, according to tax reports and the organization's accountant.

The misdemeanor charges were filed in September, after more than a year's investigation by the Los Angeles County district attorney's office.

Meanwhile, the state attorney general's office is reviewing the charity's finances in the wake of a state audit that found, among other things, that there were "inadequate records of its cash receipts" making it "very difficult to control attempts by anyone with access to bingo receipts to skim cash."

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