Alamo buildings gutted before sale

Texarkana Gazette/April 14, 2014

By Lynn LaRowe

Judge ordered properties sold to satisfy judgment; plaintiff: fixtures such as doors, sinks…

The Tony Alamo Christian Ministries church building in Fouke, Arkansas, and other properties have been gutted since a federal judge ordered their sale.

“Plaintiffs have learned that certain fixtures such as air conditioning units, ceiling tiles, doors, sinks, commodes and insulation are being removed from the properties,” states a motion filed on behalf of two men owed a $30 million judgment from imprisoned evangelist Tony Alamo.

Spencer Ondrisek and Seth Calagna, who were beaten, starved, forced to labor unpaid and denied education as children in Alamo’s group, won a civil suit in 2010 with the help of Texarkana lawyer David Carter. Since then, Carter and Irving, Texas, lawyer Neil Smith have gotten permission from U.S. Magistrate Judge Barry Bryant to sell off properties in Fort Smith, Ark., and Fouke to partially satisfy Alamo’s debt. A residential house in Texarkana, Ark., is on the lawyers’ list for future sale, as well as possibly water-rich, Alamo-connected holdings just outside Los Angeles.

Last week, Carter filed a motion complaining Alamo’s followers have been taking whatever they can salvage from the properties to sell as scrap, diminishing the value of the real estate. Bryant granted Carter’s request to have the U.S. Marshals Service take control of the Fouke church and prevent future pillaging.

“The Alamo compound in Fouke is now secure and under the protection of the U.S. Marshals Service. Anyone who enters the property or attempts to remove items from the property is subject to arrest and prosecution. We are also working with the Marshals Service to lock down a number of properties in Fort Smith,” Carter said. “Alamo and his followers have shown little or no regard for court orders in the past. If they continue to strip fixtures from any of the properties, they risk facing criminal charges.”

Carter and Irving argued, and Bryant agreed, the properties are actually held for Alamo’s benefit and profit. Some real estate in Fort Smith has been sold already, and others there are scheduled to be auctioned at a sale on the Sebastian County Courthouse steps May 22.

Alamo’s followers have fought the property sales. In hearings before Bryant earlier this year, Alamo loyalists claimed the properties belong to all members collectively. The group members practice communal living and depend on the ministry for every basic need. At the hearings concerning the properties, Alamo’s followers admitted that church membership and the supposed shared property ownership attached to it can be terminated in an instant with an order from Alamo.

Carter and Smith argued the Alamo followers essentially condoned child abuse because they knew Alamo was taking girls as young as 8 as “spiritual wives” and living a polygamous life. Witnesses in Alamo’s criminal and civil trials testified about public beatings with a wooden paddle administered at Alamo’s direction.

Alamo, 79, whose given name is Bernie LaZar Hoffman, is serving a 175-year federal prison sentence for bringing five women he wed as children across state lines for sex.

Recently, a state court judge in Miller County, Ark., awarded seven women, all of whom were targets of Alamo’s sexual depravity, more than half a billion dollars in damages. The penalty is the largest personal injury judgment in the state’s history. Circuit Judge Kirk Johnson granted a motion from Carter and Smith to liquidate Alamo holdings in California to pay the women.

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