KHTS (Santa Clarita, California)
August 25, 2014
By Perry Smith
Tony Alamo Victims’ Lawyer To Seek Sierra Highway Land
A Texarkana lawyer seeking compensation for the victims of a pastor convicted of sex crimes against children said he’ll likely be seeking Tony Alamo’s Santa Clarita Valley properties in October.
In the meantime, followers at Tony Alamo’s Santa Clarita Valley properties on Sierra Highway continue to carry on the church in the name of Alamo. Santa Clarita Valley parking lots are still peppered with flyers about his ministry. Tony Alamo, who’s known in the federal prison system as Bernie Lazar Hoffman, is 79 years old, and approximately four years into a 175-year prison sentence
Attorney W. David Carter said he’s been litigating properties for the victims of Alamo, whose real name is Bernie Lazar Hoffman, for nearly five years.
Before being sentenced to 175 years for taking wives as young as 8 years old and having people beaten and sexually abused at his command, Alamo’s ministry amassed dozens of properties worth millions of dollars, Carter said.
“I think you can safely say that, collectively, the properties in Arkansas are expected to generate seven figures for the kids,” Carter said, adding some of the settlements have terms preventing him from being too specific with the dollar values.
That figure doesn’t include Santa Clarita Valley land that Carter is trying to link to Alamo’s incorporation, the 21st Century Holiness Tabernacle Inc., he said.
However, the actual titleholders for the properties — his church site on Sierra Highway, a couple miles north of Rowher Canyon Road, and a 90-acre lot a little more than a mile north of Sand Canyon off Sierra Highway — remain unclear due to a complex web of entitlements, Carter said.
Those properties were owned by the church’s corporation, the 21st Century Holiness Tabernacle Inc., Carter said, but conveyances, or ownership changes, began about two weeks before the victims received their judgment.
A call to one of the church’s properties — a location listed on Yelp as 13136 Sierra Highway — was answered by a self-professed member of Alamo’s ministry named Suzette Brown.
“Our pastor Tony Alamo is still the pastor,” Brown said, after identifying the address of the church. “He still makes all of the decisions — this is his ministry.”
Brown said she’s been a member of the church for about six years, but she didn’t “have any information” on who owned the property.
“That’s pretty much the MO we’ve run into,” Carter said, referring to myriad title changes. “They’ve been trying to shift title around and we’ve been trying to determine what the relationship is now between the company that owns the properties and what if any ties it has to the church.”
Carter suspected the actual owner might be a shell company based out of Wichita Falls, Texas, but he was still trying to “unscramble” that part.
The California land would receive more focus once Alamo’s southeastern U.S. properties were sold, with the money going to satisfy a more-than half-billion dollar judgement against Alamo, Carter said.
“We’ll wrap up with all the parties this part of the world in early October,” Carter said. “We’ll likely sue to set that aside (those properties for sale) here in Los Angeles.”
In the Santa Clarita Valley, Tony Alamo Christian Church New Jerusalem Ministries still operates at 13136 Sierra Hwy, Canyon Country, according to the church’s website.
It’s not the first judgment against Alamo.
Five young women who testified last year that evangelist Tony Alamo took them as “wives” and sexually assaulted them when they were minors are entitled to $500,000 each from his multimillion-dollar ministry, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.
U.S. District Judge Harry F. Barnes ordered restitution after a government witness said the women suffered physical and mental pain at the hands of Alamo, who is serving a 175-year prison sentence for taking the women when they were underage across state lines for sex.
His Santa Clarita Valley followers still post writings attributed to Alamo on vehicles in Santa Clarita Valley parking lots.
In his ruling, Barnes noted that each of the victims were assaulted by someone they regarded as a pastor and prophet.
“The defendant has truly, truly damaged these five young girls and I don’t think any amount of money this court can order can replace their loss,” Barnes said.
Prosecutors said they were confident Alamo, 75, could afford the $2.5 million judgment even though most of his assets are held in his followers’ names. He will not have to pay the restitution until his appeals are exhausted.