TEXARKANA, Ark. (AP) — A federal magistrate has ruled that convicted sex offender and evangelist Tony Alamo is the owner of six properties associated with his ministry and ordered that they be sold to help satisfy a $30 million civil judgment Alamo was ordered to pay two former members of his group.
The Texarkana Gazette reports (http://bit.ly/1axv1mm ) that U.S. Magistrate Barry Bryant's order dated Thursday directs the U.S. Marshal to sell six properties in Fort Smith to partially satisfy the $30 million Alamo owes Spencer Ondrisek and Seth Calagna.
Eighty Alamo loyalists had filed claims of ownership interest on the real estate, arguing that the land belongs to Alamo Ministries or to all members collectively. The properties are a church, gym, warehouse, restaurant, restaurant parking lot and a house.
"The court finds the ownership claims made to the properties (by Alamo followers) are not valid, and further finds Bernie Lazar Hoffman, aka, Tony Alamo, is the true owner of the properties," Bryant wrote.
Alamo was convicted in 2011 of ordering the beatings, starvation and other abuse of Ondrisek and Calagna when they were children at the ministry and was ordered to pay each man $15 million.
Bryant rejected claims that the properties are owned by Alamo Ministries or all the members and not by Alamo, 79, who is serving a 175-year prison term after being convicted of bringing girls as young as 8 across state lines for sex.
Ondrisek's and Calagna's lawyers, David Carter of Texarkana and Neil Smith of Irving, Texas, argued the claims are baseless and that Alamo is the true owner.
After a hearing on the 80 members' claims Oct. 9, Bryant dismissed all but five.
Bryant's Oct. 31 opinion addresses the remaining five, describing them as "generally not credible."
At the Oct. 9 hearing, Carter and Smith gave the court emails to and from Alamo to argue that Alamo maintains a strong hold over members and continues to manage the day-to-day operations of the ministry and its businesses.
The emails contain instructions from Alamo regarding issues from property sales and building maintenance to which members can have cellphones to who can marry whom inside the group.
"There are at least 303 emails from Tony Alamo during less than a seven-month period from Aug. 27, 2012, to March 11, 2013, which demonstrate his control over the ministry," Bryant wrote.
After any bank loans or mortgages concerning the six properties are satisfied, the proceeds will go directly to Ondrisek and Calagna, Bryant ruled.
"We are very pleased with the court's decision, which reaffirms Judge Bryant's earlier finding these properties are actually owned and controlled by Tony Alamo. But our work is far from over. We will seek court-ordered sales of all Alamo properties, regardless of where they may be located or how long it may take," Smith and Carter told the newspaper.
Bryant recently signed another order approving the sale of 12 more properties associated with Alamo.
Any ownership claims to those properties must be filed by Dec. 6.
Information from: Texarkana Gazette, http://www.texarkanagazette.com