Judge orders sale of convicted evangelist's church

Associated Press/March 8, 2014

Texarkana, Arkansas -- A federal judge has again ordered the sale of convicted evangelist Tony Alamo's church and gym in Fort Smith in order to partially satisfy a $30 million civil judgment owed by Alamo.

The order by U.S. Magistrate Barry Bryant rejects five liens filed in December against the church by Alamo followers, The Texarkana Gazette reported Saturday (http://bit.ly/1edF1hI ).

Bryant's order, signed Thursday, ruled the liens invalid, noting that none had enforceable contracts or proof the filers regularly billed for their time and labor, which would justify the liens. The judge also granted attorneys David Carter and Neil Smith's motion to enforce the order to sell the parcels in an effort to pay at least part of the $30 million owed to Spencer Ondrisek and Seth Calagna.

A jury found that Alamo ordered Ondrisek and Calagna to be beaten, starved, forced to work and denied education when they were children in Alamo's ministry.

The church building and an adjacent gym were to be sold at an auction in January, but the sale was halted after the liens were filed.

Last month, Bryant heard testimony from a group of Alamo followers who claim ownership of other properties in Fort Smith, Fouke and Texarkana, Ark., which the judge has previously found were bought and held for Alamo's benefit and could be sold to help satisfy Alamo's debt.

A ruling on those claims is expected in the next few weeks.

Bryant previously found the Alamo ministry's practice of shifting property ownership to different members using quitclaim deeds was an attempt by Alamo to hide his control of the properties.

Alamo, whose given name is Bernie Lazar Hoffman, is serving a 175-year prison term in a federal prison in Tucson, Ariz., after being convicted in 2009 of bringing young girls across state lines for sex.

Late last month, a circuit judge in Arkansas awarded more than half a billion dollars in damages to seven women who Alamo was found to have physically, sexually and psychologically abused when they belonged to the evangelist's ministry.

Miller County Circuit Judge Kirk Johnson entered the default judgment against Twenty First Century Holiness Tabernacle Church, an arm of Alamo Ministries, after the group, based in southwestern Arkansas, failed to respond to the civil lawsuit. Johnson awarded the women a total of $525 million in actual and punitive damages.

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