6/11/13 – TG: Feds seek OK to sell 27 Alamo properties

Texarkana Gazette
June 11, 2013
By: Lynn LaRowe – Texarkana Gazette

Feds seek OK to sell 27 Alamo properties

The U.S. government is seeking permission from a federal judge to sell 27 properties associated with imprisoned evangelist Tony Alamo to satisfy $2.5 million he owes in restitution.

Alamo, 78, whose given name is Bernie LaZar Hoffman, was found guilty in July 2009 of all 10 counts listed in an indictment accusing him of bringing five women he wed as children across state lines for sex.

In November of the same year, U.S. District Judge Harry Barnes sentenced the disgraced self-proclaimed prophet to 175 years in federal prison. At a subsequent restitution hearing, Barnes ordered Alamo to pay $500,000 in damages to each victim.

Monday, the U.S. Attorney’s Office filed a writ of execution in Alamo’s criminal case asking for permission to sell 27 properties in Texarkana, Ark., Fouke, Ark., and Fort Smith, Ark., as recompense for the unpaid restitution and several hundred in court costs. The government also wants to recover some of its own expenses from the proceeds.

“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,” said U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Arkansas Conner Eldridge in a press release issued Monday. “We will do all we can to ensure that they receive the restitution that was ordered.”

The properties sought include churches, residences, an apartment complex, a mechanic shop and more.

“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.

Alamo lost properties in the 1990s after being found guilty of tax evasion. He served several years in federal prison then.

The government is permitted to seek forfeiture of any property it can connect to criminal activity, regardless of who the listed owner is, the press release states.

An affidavit penned by FBI Special Agent Timmy Akins chronicles the ownership histories of the properties the government is seeking. The properties are transferred among loyal followers of Tony Alamo regularly, often for as little as $10 or $1, via the use of quitclaim deeds.

The government is seeking 12 properties in Miller County and 15 in Sebastian County.

In recent court filings in a civil suit, 63 Alamo loyalists have filed claims of ownership of many of the properties. The devotees claim they are simply an unincorporated charity.

Akins’ affidavit, testimony at trial and transcripts of depositions with Alamo and many of his longtime followers paint a different picture, however.

Alamo is currently serving his sentence at a federal prison in Tucson, Ariz.

In: 2013, Breaking News

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