In the late 1960s, Tony Alamo and his wife Susan began the Tony and Susan Alamo Christian Ministries by recruiting the hippies and homeless off Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles, Calif. The group officially incorporated into the Tony and Susan Alamo Foundation on January 29, 1969.
Cops say Susan Alamo was the brains of the foundation and instructed Tony Alamo on how to act and what to say. The couple bought airtime and began spreading their message on the airwaves. Tony, a self-proclaimed singer and record promoter, performed religious songs live, while Susan preached the Bible.
While the group continued to gain followers, the Alamos gained power. However, their empire faltered when Susan was struck down with breast cancer. Ex-members say this was when Tony Alamo began to show a darker side.
He allegedly forced his followers to pray around his dead wife's body all day and night, convinced she would rise from the dead. When her body decayed instead of resurrecting, ex-followers say Alamo told them Susan would return to him in the body of a younger woman.
In the early 90s, Alamo was sued by the IRS for back taxes, and became a fugitive for two years. After he was captured and served jail time, he returned to his church and took up old habits.
This is when cops say Alamo began to prey on young women in his church. In order to do this, he needed to control his followers. This is where John Kolbek entered the picture.
According to later testimony, Kolbek's daughter was married to Alamo when she was only eight years-old.
Ex-members say Kolbek got into Alamo's good graces when he allowed his daughter to live with Alamo when she was six years-old. According to later testimony, the child was "married" to Alamo when she was only eight. After this precious gift, Kolbek became Alamo's right-hand man.
Alamo allegedly became extremely controlling in every aspect of his follower's lives. They had to submit their phone records to him, and they could not purchase clothing, food, or any other item without his approval. Ex-followers said they could not watch television without Alamo's consent. In exchange, Alamo gave his followers salvation.
According to ex-followers, church members believed that God was actually speaking through Alamo. Alamo preached fire and brimstone, saying that the end was coming and that he would bring those who followed him into heaven. He threatened his churchgoers, saying those who left the church would become insane or homosexual, and would burn in hell when they died. This type of fear kept his flock from straying.
If anyone were to question Alamo, they would be summoned to see Kolbek. Kolbek had what was known as the "board of education," a three foot long, six inch wide wooden board used to beat followers into submission. Ex-members said it was unpredictable when they would get beaten. There are documented records of members being beaten for playing in the dirt, making a joke about Harry Potter, playing with squirt bottles, making repairs that didn't hold, and other meaningless "crimes."
But while the crimes were meaningless, the beatings weren't.
Ex-members say the beatings would consist of person holding each limb, while the victim was held aloft. Kolbek would then take out the board and beat the person relentlessly, sometimes to the point of unconsiousness. In one case, Alamo was quoted as introducing John Kolbek by saying, "Here's Johnny!" Another time, he was reported as saying, "Do you think I like doing this? I love doing this!"
These beatings were allegedly given to adults and children alike. In one case, ex-members say Alamo even ordered Kolbek to "beat the devil" out of a little girl with epilepsy.
When two teenage boys escaped the Alamo compound, they reported the alleged abuse to police. The beatings one boy sustained were so intense, there was still visible bruising from a beating six months prior.
Police raided the Alamo compound on September 21, 2008 and removed the girls living in Alamo's house. They raided the area again in November, seized more children, and placed them into foster homes.
Alamo has since been convicted of transporting minors over state lines for sex, and sentenced to 175 years in prison. Kolbek was able to escape authorities, and is on the run. He might be traveling with this wife, Jennifer, and four children belonging to another member on the church. The children are under the guardianship of Jennifer Kolbek, and police are concerned for the children's safety.