Texarkana Gazette
May 3, 2017
By: Lynn LaRowe

Evangelist and convicted sex abuser Tony Alamo has died

Imprisoned evangelist Tony Alamo, whose given name is Bernie Lazar Hoffman, died at age 82 Tuesday at federal hospital in North Carolina, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons and an FBI source.

Alamo was convicted in July 2009 by a jury in a Texarkana federal court of bringing five girls he wed as children across state lines for sex. Later that year, he was sentenced to 175 years in federal prison by U.S. District Judge Harry Barnes in the Texarkana Division of the Western District of Arkansas.

Alamo began calling himself a pastor and evangelist in 1969. Alamo’s followers lived on communal properties including compounds the ministry owned in Fouke and Fort Smith, Ark. Most worked as “volunteers” for the group. Members weren’t allowed to amass savings, own personal property or communicate with outsiders, except to attempt to recruit them.

The group owns properties in California and once held real estate in Dyer, Ark., and Oklahoma. Alamo’s devotees ran sham charities and sold rhinestone-studded jackets to fund the ministry.

Since Alamo’s conviction, former wives and others who claim they were harmed by life in Alamo’s closed, cultic society have sued and won millions in damages. The suits have led to the sale of Alamo properties in Fouke and Fort Smith to help satisfy the judgments.

Some of his followers have remained faithful and continue distribute his leaflets.

Witnesses at Alamo’s trial and in civil cases testified that children and adults were publicly beaten, forced to fast, denied education and required to labor without pay at Alamo’s direction. The group’s dogma included fear and distrust of outsiders and governmental authority. Children were frequently separated from their families, and Alamo often took underage brides, the youngest of whom was 8. Alamo followers were taught that abandoning Alamo, his teachings and his ministry meant eternal damnation.

Retired FBI Agent Randall Harris was the lead investigator into Alamo’s federal sex crimes and testified against him at his criminal trial.

“I have been inundated with inquiries this morning from former members, including one of the Jane Does, as well as others who had been closely involved in the Alamo case,” Harris said. “After I was able to provide them with, at least, unofficial confirmation of his death, most everyone now expresses relief and hope that those who remained under Alamo’s control will no longer be in fear to leave the group if they choose to do so.”

A cause of death for Alamo has not been confirmed. However, at the time of his trial in 2009, witnesses testified the convicted sexual abuser suffered from diabetes and other age-related maladies.

In: 2017, Breaking News

| Back to Top |
Want to help?

Click the button!

Post A Comment

Please note: All comments are moderated. There is no need to resubmit your comment. Please submit a well thought out post with proper punctuation and spelling, so that it can be reviewed and posted promptly (as space allows).

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.