FBI, Calif child services visited Alamo compound

Associated Press/October 9, 2008

Little Rock, Arkansas - California social workers and FBI agents were investigating possible abuse of children at a Tony Alamo Christian Ministries facility in that state just after authorities raided one of the evangelist's two Arkansas compounds, officials said Thursday.

Louise Grasmehr, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services, said social workers took no children into custody at the compound near Santa Clarita, Calif. Investigators arrived in the early morning hours of Sept. 21 to find only a few adults and a 14-year-old boy, she said.

"We did interview him and we found there was nothing going on with him-no signs of abuse or neglect," Grasmehr said. State officials left the child in the custody of his father, who was also there at the time.

Federal agents accompanied sheriff's deputies and social workers to visit the site, near where Alamo and his wife Susan formed their first commune in the 1960s, said Laura Eimiller, a spokeswoman for the FBI's Los Angeles field office. Eimiller said the FBI served no federal search warrants at the compound.

Sgt. Darren Harris, a spokesman for the local substation of the Los Angeles County sheriff's office, said deputies were notified about the FBI heading to the Alamo compound, but did not participate in the operation.

Arkansas State Police and federal agents raided Alamo's compound at Fouke in southwest Arkansas on Sept. 20, searching for evidence that

Arkansas social workers later took six girls from the Fouke compound, ages 10 to 17, into protective custody. Officials have declined to say what the girls told them, and an arrest warrant for Alamo remains sealed in federal court.

Julie Munsell, a spokeswoman for the Arkansas Department of Human Services, said state social workers have not visited Alamo's other church in Fort Smith.

Alamo repeatedly denied the accusations before his arrest at a Flagstaff, Ariz., resort on Sept. 25.

John Wesley Hall Jr., a Little Rock lawyer representing Alamo, said he had heard FBI agents went to the Santa Clarita compound, but had yet to confirm it. He questioned how federal agents and state officials got inside without warrants.

The California child services spokeswoman said police asked them to go to the compound, while the FBI spokeswoman said agents only "accompanied" the social workers.

"A welfare check-a be-all, end-all of avoiding the 4th Amendment. No, it's not going to work," Hall said. However, the lawyer acknowledged agents and social workers could have entered the compound legally if they were invited in.

Hall said he had yet to speak to Alamo, who Hall said is likely being held in Oklahoma City waiting for transport to western Arkansas. An arraignment date in Texarkana has yet to be set.

Meanwhile, hearings to decide whether the state can keep custody of the six girls taken from Fouke are tentatively scheduled for Oct. 20 and 21 in Miller County Circuit Court.

Since establishing his ministries in Arkansas, Alamo has been a controversial and flamboyant figure. The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups, describes the ministry as a cult that rails against homosexuals, Roman Catholics and the government.

Alamo was convicted of tax-related charges in 1994 and served four years in prison after the IRS said he owed the government $7.9 million. Prosecutors in that case argued that Alamo was a flight risk and a polygamist who preyed on married women and girls in his congregation.

To see more documents/articles regarding this group/organization/subject click here.