Arkansas officials seize 6 Alamo compound children

Associated Press/December 4, 2008

Little Rock, Arkansas - Child welfare officials have seized six children in Indiana associated with the Tony Alamo Christian Ministries, while authorities in California visited a church compound affiliated with the jailed evangelist.

With the Indiana operation, state officials have seized 32 children associated with the ministries over allegations of beatings and sexual abuse.

Alamo, 74, remains held without bond, charged with violating the Mann Act, a federal law that bans transporting women or girls across state lines for "prostitution or debauchery, or for any other immoral purpose."

Julie Munsell, a spokeswoman for the Arkansas Department of Human Services, declined to say where or how the six children in Indiana were taken into state custody.

Anthony Lane, a father of three of the children, said officials acted Tuesday after receiving a tip from him about their location.

"I said, 'Thank God, they're going to follow us on this lead,'" Lane told The Associated Press. He said the FBI has asked him not to reveal where the six children were found.

Steve Frazier, a spokesman for the FBI's Little Rock field office, declined to comment Wednesday.

Lane, who works as a roofer in Texarkana, said he has been trying for 10 years to reunite with his children, who belong to Alamo's ministry. Lane said he saw a 13-year-old girl marry a man of about 40 just before he was kicked out of the church for asking too many questions.

The Indiana children will be placed in state foster homes, pending future court hearings.

"I believe they are all in general good health, just like the others were," Munsell said.

Also on Wednesday, California child welfare officials went to the ministry's compound in Santa Clarita but found no children there, said Louise Grasmehr, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services.

Officials went to the compound after receiving information from Arkansas, she said.

"Since there were no children there, we left," Grasmehr said.

Arkansas state officials continue to look for children associated with the Alamo ministries, which is said to have operations in Colorado, New Jersey, Oklahoma and Tennessee, among other states.

Alamo, who was arrested Sept. 25 as he left a hotel in Flagstaff, Ariz., has pleaded not guilty to all charges against him.

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.

Alamo faces trial in February on the 10 federal child-abuse charges in Arkansas. Hall has said he may ask a judge for more time to prepare a defense because most of the charges were filed only recently.

Associated Press Writer Thomas Watkins in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

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