7/27/09 – Just another prophet?
July 29, 2009
Erik DiVietro

Just another prophet?

Evangelist Tony Alamo (AKA Bernie LaZar Hoffman, Marcus Abad, Mark Hoffman) is going to prison – again. On Friday, a federal jury convicted him of ten counts of transporting young girls across state lines for sexual purposes. The maximum penalty for his conviction is 175 years.

In the 1970’s and 1980’s, Alamo built a cultish following in Hollywood, California. His congregation was mostly made up of drug addicts and drifters who committed themselves to Alamo’s message, and his various business enterprises.

In 1987, Alamo faced charges when his organization came under intense scrutiny for the abuse of an eleven year old boy. The boy’s punishment had been 140 blows from a three-foot paddle which had left him bloodied and bruised.

Alamo fled his compound and evaded authorities until 1991 when he was arrested by the FBI. The IRS added tax evasion charges on top of the felony child abuse charges he already faced. He was convicted of the tax evasion charges and sentenced to six years in prison, during which the FBI dropped the child abuse charges.

Upon his release, Alamo set up another compound in the small town of Fouke, Arkansas with about one hundred of his followers. Neighbors became frustrated with Alamo and his people, who set up armed guards on public roads and otherwise acted suspiciously. According to the Associate Press there was also some rumors about Alamo’s proclivity for ‘marrying’ young girls.

In September 2008, over one hundred law enforcement agents raided Alamo’s compound. After five days, Alamo surrendered to them and was taken into custody. He was originally arrested on two counts of transporting young girls across state lines for sexual purposes, but during the trial an additional eight charges were filed after the judge unsealed another federal indictment.

Denying the charges, Alamo has repeatedly stated that he is “just another prophet put in prison for the Gospel”, calling the charges “bull—-” on his website and labeling his accusers as “liars.”

Alamo’s case was heard before the U.S. District Court of Western Arkansas. Judge Harry F. Barnes presided over the trial which lasted only eleven days. Damning testimony was presented by several of his young victims, one of whom was “married” to him at the age of eight. His sentencing will proceed this week, and Alamo has already stated that he will appeal the decision.

In: 2009 - (Trial year), Editorials, News Blogs & Forums

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