9/14/13 – TG: Judge throws out most claims to Alamo properties. Trial to address remaining claimants

Texarkana Gazette
September 14, 2013
By: Lynn LaRowe Best – Texarkana Gazette

Judge throws out most claims to Alamo properties
Trial to address remaining claimants

Tony Alamo Christian Ministries members who claim ownership interests in six properties a federal judge has ruled can be sold have had most of their claims thrown out.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Barry Bryant previously ruled six Fort Smith, Ark., properties can be sold to help satisfy a $30 million civil judgment Alamo owes two men who were beaten, starved, forced to labor unpaid and denied education as children raised in the controversial group.

Bryant issued an order Friday dismissing 74 Alamo loyalists’ claims.

Of the six claimants that remain, five are Alamo Ministries members whose names appear on property deeds or who testified that they personally helped pay for certain properties.

The sixth claimant, Christian Coie, is the daughter of Tony Alamo’s deceased wife, Susan Alamo.

Coie was awarded a $100,000 judgment against Alamo in 1995 for outrage in a state court. Coie sued Alamo after her mother’s body was disinterred from a heart-shaped mausoleum in Crawford County, Ark., when ministry properties there were seized as recompense for unpaid taxes and to satisfy a civil judgment against Alamo.

Bryant ruled that Coie may have an interest in the proceeds of the sale of the six properties.

Angela Morales, who witnesses testified at Alamo’s criminal trial in 2009 is one of Alamo’s wives, has standing to make a claim to one of the six properties, the church building in Fort Smith, Ark., because her name appears on the deed, Bryant ruled. The same is true for Sandford White.

Don Wolfe testified at a hearing last week that he helped raise the down payment for the Fort Smith church building. Bryant ruled he has standing to raise a claim.

Thomas Scarcello testified at last week’s hearing that he was a signatory on a bank note for a warehouse in Fort Smith that is among the six properties Bryant has ruled can be sold. Ben Edwards’ name appears on a deed for a gym next to the church building in Fort Smith.

“The other claimants have not demonstrated actual possession, control, title, or financial stake sufficient” to satisfy the requirements to make a claim under Arkansas law, Bryant ruled.

Bryant has scheduled a bench trial to address the claims of the five ministry members and Coie for Oct. 9 in Texarkana’s downtown federal building.

Bryant’s ruling also addressed “standing of the purported ministry.”

The ministry claimants, all of whom but Wolfe are represented by Clayton, Mo., lawyer Patrick Kilgore, argued that the ministry qualifies as a nonprofit under the Arkansas Revised Uniform Unincorporated Nonprofit Association Act. As such, the ministry members argued that the properties belong to the ministry.

Bryant’s order states that the ministry fails to demonstrate that it is an unincorporated nonprofit because no evidence of an agreement to operate as a nonprofit was submitted to the court. Bryant’s order also notes that the ministry members offered no evidence of its nonprofit purposes.

“Indeed, at the hearing in this matter, the claimants testified they were involved in several for-profit businesses associated … ” with the ministry.

“Clearly, such businesses are not organized for ‘nonprofit’ purposes,” Bryant wrote.

The six claimants remaining in the case should be present at the October hearing, Bryant’s order states.

None of the ministry members left in the case have financial or title claims to three of the properties Bryant previously ruled can be sold. Those three properties include a restaurant, a restaurant parking lot and a residential house in Fort Smith.

Alamo owes Seth Calagna and Spencer Ondrisek $30 million total in actual and punitive damages. A jury found Alamo guilty of conspiracy, outrage and battery following a civil trial in 2010. The judgment remains unpaid.

Calagna’s and Ondrisek’s lawyers, David Carter of Texarkana and Neil Smith of Irving, Texas, argued that the properties are actually controlled, held and operated for the benefit and profit of Alamo. Carter and Smith argue that Alamo devised a quitclaim scheme to protect his properties from court action. Properties associated with the ministry are placed in the names of followers and ownership is transferred frequently through pre-signed quitclaim deeds that are dated and filed when Alamo wants to transfer ownership of a property among members, often because one named on a deed has fallen from his favor.

Alamo is currently serving a 175-year federal prison sentence for bringing five women he wed as children across state lines for sex.

In: 2013, Breaking News

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