July 3, 2013
By: Marty Houston
Fort Smith, Arkansas – Conner Eldridge, United States Attorney for the Western District of Arkansas, announced today that the office has filed forfeiture and collection actions in United States District Court on 27 properties relating to the conviction of Tony Alamo, also known as Bernie Lazar Hoffman. Alamo was originally sentenced on November 13, 2009, to life in prison for transporting minors with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity. On January 15, 2010, he was ordered to pay $500,000 in restitution for each of the five victims, a total of $2.5 million. As of May 8, 2013, Alamo has not made any restitution payments. In an effort to collect restitution for the victims, prosecutors filed an action in district court that requests writs of execution against 27 parcels of real property. Prosecutors also filed six separate lawsuits seeking the forfeiture of property that facilitated the abuse of the five victims.
United States Attorney Eldridge stated, “We will use every tool at our disposal to see that Tony Alamo pays the $2.5 million he owes to the victims in this case. The victims in this case suffered from horrendous abuse at his hands. We will do all we can to ensure that they receive the restitution that was ordered.”
By pursuing the writs of execution against the 27 parcels of real property, the government is seeking to liquidate property that is owned or controlled by Alamo. These properties can be sold to obtain assets to pay for the $2.5 million in restitution owed. While the properties listed in the application for writs of execution are listed as being owned by various members of Tony Alamo Christian Ministries, the government argues that they remain under the control of Alamo and that the individuals are “straw-owners” or “owners in name only,” a tactic Alamo has employed to conceal his interests after being convicted of tax evasion.
Under criminal forfeiture laws, the government is authorized to seek the forfeiture of any real property with a nexus to criminal activity, regardless of the owner of record. The properties named in the six forfeiture actions facilitated Alamo’s abuse of minor children by concealing his criminal conduct from law enforcement and assisting him in psychologically imposing his will on the minor children. For instance, in one property, Alamo ordered a victim to be housed without food for an extended period of time as a punishment. On another property, Alamo forced his minor victims to witness the public beating of another child who refused to obey him. Those properties, if forfeited, can be re-sold by the federal government with the proceeds dispersed, in most instances, to lien-holders and secured creditors.
The government filed for a writ of execution against 12 properties in Miller County and 15 in Sebastian County.
Assistant United States Attorneys Benjamin Wulff and Debbie Groom are representing the United States in these forfeiture and collection actions.