3/8/14 – TG: Judge rules Alamo church can be sold

Texarkana Gazette
March 8, 2014
By: Lynn LaRowe – Texarkana Gazette

Judge rules Alamo church can be sold

A federal judge in Texarkana has once again given the green light to sell Tony Alamo’s Fort Smith, Ark., church building to partially satisfy a $30 million judgment owed by the imprisoned evangelist.

A jury found Alamo, 79, guilty of battery, conspiracy and outrage in a civil case filed by Texarkana lawyer David Carter on behalf of Spencer Ondrisek and Seth Calagna, two men raised in the controversial group. Ondrisek and Calagna were beaten with boards, starved, forced to labor unpaid and denied education as children.

Carter and Irving, Texas, lawyer Neil Smith have sought and received permission from U.S. Magistrate Judge Barry Bryant to sell properties in Fort Smith, Fouke and Texarkana, Ark. Thus far, two Fort Smith properties, a warehouse and a residence, have been auctioned. The church building and an adjacent gym in Fort Smith were supposed to be sold at an auction in January, but the sale was halted because five Alamo loyalists filed mechanic’s liens against the real estate in December.

“For instance, one lien was filed in the amount of $115,616 for ‘security, daily property and building maintenance …general repairs,’” an order inked Thursday by Bryant states. “In addition to these liens, the alleged lienholders also filed purported invoices.”

Bryant ruled Thursday the liens are invalid and granted Carter’s and Smith’s motion to enforce the order to sell the parcels.

“Specifically, Al Johnson (one of the men who filed a mechanic’s lien), testified he has no formal agreement, and he worked ‘for the Lord,’” the order states.

Adressing each of the liens, Bryant noted none of them had enforceable contracts or proof they regularly billed for their time and labor, which would justify the liens.

“Jay Porter testified he contributed his time and labor and, in return, he expected ‘ownership of whatever properties exist at the time in the ministry,’” Bryant’s order states.

The most recent entry on the case’s docket sheet includes an order from Bryant directing the U.S. Marshal’s Office to sell the Fort Smith church and gym.

Last month, Bryant heard testimony from a sizable group of Alamo followers claiming ownership of a group of properties in Fort Smith, Fouke and Texarkana, Ark., which he’d previously found were bought and held for Alamo’s benefit and could be sold to help satisfy Alamo’s debt to Ondrisek and Calagna. A ruling on their claims is expected in the next couple of weeks. Bryant denied the claims of members asserting ownership of the Fort Smith church, gym, warehouse, house, restaurant and parking lot following a similar hearing.

Bryant found the group’s practice of shifting property ownership to different members using quitclaim deeds is nothing more than an attempt by Alamo to avoid accountability for his misdeeds.

Alamo, whose given name is Bernie Lazar Hoffman, is serving a 175-year prison term in a federal lockup in Tuscon, Ariz. for bringing five women he wed as children across state lines for sex.

In: 2014, Breaking News

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