Ex-members aim to seize ministry buildings

ArkansasOnline/February 6, 2013

Attorneys for two former members of the Tony Alamo Christian Ministries have asked a judge to order the seizure and auction of six ministry buildings in Fort Smith to satisfy a $30 million judgment against the ministry's leader.

In a court filing Monday evening, attorneys for Spencer Ondrisek and Seth Calagna asked U.S. Magistrate Judge Barry Bryant to order the seizure and auction of a ministry church and gym building on Windsor Drive, a warehouse on South Fourth Street, a house and a former restaurant building on 16th Street and a parking lot on 17th Street.

The deeds to the properties list church members as the owners, but the filing calls that a "scam" to protect ministry leader Tony Alamo from creditors.

"Certain individuals have admitted that while they're on the deed, they're holding title for the benefit of Tony Alamo," W. David Carter, an attorney for Ondrisek and Calagna, said Tuesday.

The court filing cites Arkansas Code Annotated 16-66-201, which lists real estate held by another person for a defendant's use as among the types of property that can be seized to satisfy a judgment against the defendant.

If Bryant grants the request, Carter said the Fort Smith property would be seized by the U.S. Marshals Service and sold at a public auction.

The sale likely wouldn't be enough to satisfy the judgment, but Carter said he and the other attorneys also plan to target other properties.

"We'll keep looking at properties in Arkansas and other states and not stop until it's satisfied," Carter said.

Attorneys for Alamo didn't return calls seeking comment Tuesday.

In their lawsuit, Ondrisek and Calagna said Alamo ordered the church's "enforcer," John Kolbeck, to beat them with a wooden board on multiple occasions while they were children and members of the ministry. Kolbeck died of heart failure in January 2011.

The two former members also said Alamo berated them, ordered them to fast and forced them to listen to cassette tapes of his "rebukes" of other ministry members.

A jury in June 2011 awarded Calagna and Ondrisek $3 million each in damages for pain, suffering and mental anguish and $30 million each in punitive damages.

A federal appeals court last year reduced the punitive damages to $12 million for reach plaintiff.

Alamo, 78, was convicted in 2009 of taking five underage girls across state lines for sex in violation of the federal Mann Act and was sentenced to 175 years in prison.

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