May 15, 2014

Judge OKs sale of property to partially satisfy Alamo deb

Texarkana Gazette
May 3, 2014
Lynn LaRowe 

Judge OKs sale of property to partially satisfy Alamo debt

A federal judge in Texarkana has given the green light for the sale of more properties associated with imprisoned evangelist Tony Alamo.

Earlier this week, two members with ownership claims to houses in Texarkana and Fouke, Ark., did not show for a hearing in the Texarkana division of the Western District of Arkansas. U.S. District Judge Barry Bryant previously said he would consider William Wattles’ claim to a house in the 200 block of Locust Street in Texarkana, Ark., and Douglas Brubach’s claim to a parcel in Fouke.

Both men penned letters to the court essentially calling attendance at the hearing a waste of time in light of Bryant’s previous rulings that a bevy of Alamo-connected real estate can be sold to partially satisfy a multimillion-dollar civil judgment Tony Alamo owes two men raised in the controversial group.

“Because of unprecedented prejudice, except for the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, and the reason stated above, I have to decline to show for this vain hearing where I believe the decision has already been determined beforehand,” Wattles wrote in a letter with a Santa Clarita, Calif., postmark.

Bryant has already given Texarkana lawyer David Carter and Irving, Texas, lawyer Neil Smith permission to liquidate a number of properties in Fouke and Fort Smith, Ark., to help pay Alamo’s $30 million debt to Spencer Ondrisek and Seth Calagna. Ondrisek and Calagna were beaten, starved, forced to labor unpaid and denied education as children raised in Alamo Ministries.

On the auction block are ministry church buildings in Fouke and Fort Smith, a number of houses, a restaurant, an apartment complex and more.

Brubach said in his letter to the court electing to skip the April 30 hearing that Bryant’s rulings concerning the properties have left members “homeless” and the ministry in “shambles” in part because of their refusal to believe “Pastor Alamo” is “guilty of all of the abominable acts he has been accused of.”

In an April 30 opinion, Bryant considered Brubach’s letter when discussing the control Alamo continues to exert over ministry members despite his being confined in federal prison for child sex crimes.

“In this case, this court has previously outlined in great detail the history of defendant and the Tony Alamo Christian Ministries and the level of control defendant exercises and has exercised over the Tony Alamo Christian Ministries and its members,” Bryant’s opinion states. “Indeed, Mr. Brubach still refers to ‘Pastor Alamo’ in his statement to the court, again recognizing defendant’s leadership in the Tony Alamo Christian Ministries.”

Bryant’s opinion refers to a prior opinion concerning the group’s practice of routinely transferring title of real estate among members. The court previously found the practice is a scheme to shield Alamo, for whose welfare the properties are actually held, from liability for his misdeeds. Bryant’s April 30 title notes that Brubach and Wattles “only hold bare legal title for the benefit of defendant.”

A sale of some of the properties in Fouke is scheduled for May 22. Some properties in Fort Smith have already been sold.

“We will move quickly to sell this round of properties. By this time next year, we should have all known properties sold,” Carter said. “Nothing will be left but a bad memory and a lesson for those who turn a blind eye to the abuse of children.”

Carter and Smith have gotten the go-ahead from a state judge in Miller County, Ark., to liquidate properties in Santa Clarita, Calif., where Alamo Ministries operates a compound on land rumored to have rich water resources, to satisfy a half-billion-dollar judgment awarded to former wives of Alamo.

Alamo, 79, whose given name is Bernie LaZar Hoffman, is currently being held in a federal lockup in Tuscon, Ariz., where he is serving a 175-year sentence for bringing five women he wed as children across state lines for sex.