Federal, State Agents Raid Compound In Sex Investigation

THV News, Arkansas/September 20, 2008

FBI agents and state police raided an evangelists' headquarters Saturday as part of a child pornography investigation and planned to remove several children from the complex run by a man previously accused of child abuse.

The raid at the Tony Alamo Christian Ministries south of Texarkana started an hour before sunset. Armed guards regularly patrol the ministry headquarters but there was no indication that law officers met resistance.

The search warrants stemmed from investigation into the illegal trafficking and abuse of children within the church. Investigators are currently interviewing children on site and no arrests have been made.

U.S. Attorney Bob Balfe said before the raid that agents had a search warrant and that he expected an arrest warrant would be issued later for Alamo. An FBI evidence response team arrived at the scene shortly after the raid began. An SUV with a trailer attached backed up to the ministry building's front door. FBI vehicles blocked off a dead-end road.

A Fouke School District bus also arrived and pulled up near 12 unmarked vans, SUVs and sedans parked alongside the low-slung ministry headquarters along U.S. 71 just inside the Fouke city limits.

Alamo's church is in a single-story building similar in design to a strip mall. A white cross is erected atop the structure, with a small steeple to the right side.

Alamo once was accused in California of directing the beating of a church member's 11-year-old son. In 1994, he was sentenced to six years in prison on tax evasion charges filed in Memphis, tenn.

The judge in the tax case ordered him held pending sentencing after prosecutors argued that the evangelist was a flight risk and a polygamist who preyed on married women and girls in his congregation. U.S. District Judge Jon McCalla said he was concerned over "the very great control Mr. Alamo has over a number of people."

Self-proclaimed world pastor Tony Alamo is not on site and is at an undisclosed location in Santa Clarita, California.

In a phone interview with THV's Charles Crowson and the AP's John Gambrell, Alamo refuted the allegations claiming that the government and the media were attempting to bring an end to his ministry.

Stay with Today's THV and todaysthv.com for more on this developing story. THV and Associated Press.

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