Alamo arrested by FBI en route to Santa Clarita

Bust takes place soon after interview with The Signal

The Signal, Santa Clarita Valley/September 25, 2008

Federal Bureau of Investigation agents arrested church evangelist Bernie Hoffman, aka Tony Alamo, in Flagstaff, Ariz. at approximately 2:45 p.m. Central time, according to an FBI official.

Agents arrested Alamo, founder and leader of the Tony Alamo Christian Ministries, in connection with raids at his compounds in Saugus and Arkansas over the weekend, said Laura Eihmiller, FBI spokeswoman.

The FBI, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and the Los Angeles County Department of Child and Family Services raided the Saugus compound after receiving information from the FBI agents who raided the Arkansas compound on suspicion of child abuse and possession of child pornography.

According to the FBI, Alamo was arrested on a federal warrant and is being charged with violating United States Code Title 18, Section 2423, which makes it a federal crime to knowingly transport a minor (under 18) across state lines with the intent to engage in sexual activity that would be a criminal offense under state law.

Alamo will be scheduled for an initial appearance in Federal Court in Flagstaff to determine when he will be returned to Arkansas to face these charges. That hearing has not been scheduled at this time.

Less than an hour before his arrest, somewhere between Texarkana, Ark. and Santa Clarita, Calif., Alamo was waiting at the side of a desert road for the car part, far from the nationwide controversy about children removed from his Fouke, Ark. compound, when a Signal reporter contacted him by telephone.

"I'm not on the run," Alamo said, speaking from a desert location he would not specify. "I was on my way to Santa Clarita but I got stranded here."

In this exclusive interview, Alamo told The Signal he's waiting for the proper replacement part for his broken "vehicle" after having received the wrong part three times.

"We're supposed to be getting it fixed today," he said.

Regardless of where Alamo is today, a special hearing is also scheduled for a Little Rock, Ark. court Friday during which two of six girls removed from his church are expected to testify behind closed doors about allegations of sexual abuse.

Federal Bureau of Investigation agents and child protective services in Little Rock raided Alamo's Arkansas compound Saturday. A similar composite of investigators raided his church near Santa Clarita early Sunday.

Alamo spoke to The Signal in a long, light-hearted casual interview. See the print edition of Friday's Signal for more excerpts.

Signal Online Editor Stephen K. Peeples contributed to this story.

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