September 20, 1934 |
Joplin, Missouri, U.S.
|Spouse(s)||Helen Hagan (m. 1961-1966; divorced); 1 child
Susan Alamo (m. 1966-died April 8, 1982)
Birgetta Oyllenhammer (1984-19??)
Elizabeth Amrhein (19??-19??)
|Children||Mark Anthony Hoffman|
|Congregations served||Alamo Christian Foundation|
Tony Alamo (born Bernie Lazar Hoffman; September 20, 1934) is an American religious leader and convicted child sex offender. He and his late wife Susan are best known as the founders of an organization currently known as Tony Alamo Christian Ministries. The organization is based in and around the towns of Fouke and Alma, Arkansas, United States, and has been referred to as a cult. On July 24, 2009, Alamo was convicted on 10 counts of interstate transportation of minors for illegal sexual purposes, rape, sexual assault, and contributing to the delinquency of minors. On November 13, 2009, he was sentenced to the maximum punishment of 175 years in prison. He is currently incarcerated at United States Penitentiary, Tucson in Tucson, Arizona, with the Federal Bureau of Prisons ID number 00305-112.
Life and career
Hoffman was born in Joplin, Missouri, to Jewish parents in 1934. As a child he moved with his family to Montana, where he was briefly employed as a delivery boy for Helena's Independent Record newspaper. In the early 1960s, Hoffman moved to Los Angeles, California, where he assumed the names Marcus Abad and Mark Hoffman and pursued a career in music, mounting a major publicity campaign to hype singer Bobby Jameson in 1964. He was briefly incarcerated for a weapon-related offense.
Hoffman married Helen Hagan (born Helen Alice Muller) in 1961. On May 25, 1964, the couple had a son, Mark Anthony Hoffman. While married to Helen, he met aspiring actress Susan Lipowitz (born Edith Opal Horn), a Jewish convert to evangelical Christianity who was nine years older than Hoffman and married to a man whom Hoffman later described as a "small time Los Angeles hood". After both Hoffman's and Lipowitz' divorces, Lipowitz and Hoffman married in a 1966 Las Vegas, Nevada, ceremony, and the couple legally changed their names to Tony and Susan Alamo.
Together, the couple established the Tony and Susan Alamo Christian Foundation in 1969 in Hollywood, California. They also manufactured and sold a line of "Tony Alamo" brand sequined denim jackets, a business that eventually landed Alamo in prison for tax evasion. Susan delivered the sermons on the Alamos' syndicated TV program during the 1970s while her husband appeared to sing a gospel song. Susan was later diagnosed with cancer and died on April 8, 1982. Alamo stated she would be resurrected and for six months he had her body on display "while their followers prayed". After 16 years, her body was given to her family.
In 1984, Alamo married Birgetta Oyllenhammer, owner of a clothing design and manufacturing company in Southern California. Tony continued making clothes, under the brand name "Tony Alamo of Nashville", and Michael Jackson was one of his customers, owning two bib shirts of this brand. He then married Elizabeth Amrhein. After a custody battle, they lost control of her children. For a time Alamo had a retail store in Nashville, Tennessee, called The Alamo of Nashville. Alamo was convicted of federal tax evasion in 1994. He completed a prison sentence and was released on December 8, 1998. He then went to a halfway house in Texarkana.
Alamo's followers sometimes distribute tracts of his writings publicly. The tracts predict impending doom and Armageddon and invite the reader to accept Jesus as their savior. The tracts condemn Catholicism, the Pope and the United States government as a Satanic conspiracy behind events such as 9/11, the attack on Pearl Harbor and the John F. Kennedy assassination. Tracts currently being distributed include a picture of Alamo circa 1986. In a tract distributed shortly before the siege of the Branch Davidian establishment in Waco, Texas, Alamo protested the media's use of the word "compound" to describe the campus of his seminary and the word "cult" to describe his ministry.
In November 2011, Alamo's attorney reported that Alamo had been hospitalized with a heart attack, and that he was suffering from double pneumonia and a liver ailment. On November 19, 2011, Alamo's attorney announced that Alamo had been released from the hospital.
Alamo voted in the 2006 runoff election in Fouke, Arkansas, in support of incumbent Mayor Cecil Smith. This vote was challenged by Miller County Clerk Ann Nicholas on the grounds that Alamo is a convicted felon. Alamo presented a signed letter from probation officer John C. Mooney Jr., stating that Alamo's term of supervision had ended on December 7, 1999. The letter did not explicitly state that Alamo's suffrage had been restored.
The Arkansas Secretary of State's office issued a statement saying that the county clerk did not have the authority to challenge a ballot on those grounds, and Alamo's ballot was ultimately accepted. However, Smith was defeated by candidate Terry Purvis with a tally of 216-151.
Child abuse case
On September 20, 2008, federal and state investigative agents raided the Arkansas headquarters of the ministry, which is a 15-acre (6.1 ha) compound near Texarkana, Arkansas, as part of a child pornography investigation. This investigation involved allegations of physical and sexual abuse and allegations of polygamy and underage marriage. According to Terry Purvis, mayor of Fouke, Arkansas, his office received complaints from former ministry members about allegations of child abuse, sexual abuse and polygamy since the ministry established itself in the area. In turn, Purvis turned over information about the allegations to the FBI. Alamo denied the child abuse allegations. On September 25, 2008, Alamo was arrested by Arizona police and FBI agents in Flagstaff, Arizona, on a federal warrant out of Texarkana, Arkansas, federal court (case number 08-40020) on charges that he transported minors (as early as 1994) over state lines for sexual activity in violation of the Mann Act. On October 17, 2008, he pleaded not guilty, and his case was set for trial.
On October 22, 2008, Alamo's former followers testified in court during a preliminary hearing that Alamo had practiced polygamy and had taken an eight-year-old girl as a wife. On December 2, a judge in Arkansas unsealed a federal indictment that included eight new charges against Alamo. The 74-year-old Alamo, who remained jailed while awaiting trial, originally faced two charges of taking minor girls across state lines for sex. The eight new counts were similar and involved four new alleged victims. His trial began on July 13, 2009, and on July 24, 2009, Alamo was found guilty on all ten federal counts.
On July 28, 2009, shortly after his conviction, Tony Alamo again made headlines by calling himself "just another one of the prophets that went to jail for the Gospel". He was sentenced to 175 years in prison on November 13, 2009. On January 13, 2010, each of five women who testified to sexual abuse by Alamo was awarded US$500,000 in restitution, for a total judgment of US$2.5 million.
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- Singer, Margaret, Janja Lalich, Cults in Our Midst (Jossey-Bass Publishers, 1995) p.87
- Alamo Christian Ministries' official web site directs inquiries to a Texarkana, Texas post office box. The Alamo Ministries compound is in Fouke, Arkansas
- Francke, Eric W. (c. 2000). A Brief History of the Alamo Christian Foundation. New England Institute of Religious Research. Retrieved 2006-12-30.
- AP Wire Stories www.ap.com
- Federal Verdict Slip http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/07/24/tony.alamo.verdict.pdf
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- KHTV Little Rock (Local Coverage) http://www.todaysthv.com/news/local/story.aspx?storyid=88474&catid=238
- United Press International (UPI) http://www.upi.com/Top_News/2009/07/24/Tony-Alamo-convicted-of-sex-charges/UPI-37741248464065/
- Federal Bureau of Prisons Inmate Locator http://www.bop.gov/iloc2/InmateFinderServlet?Transaction=IDSearch&needingMoreList=false&IDType=IRN&IDNumber=00305-112&x=84&y=9
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- Alamo Christian Ministries/Music Square Church. Montana Human Rights Network]
- Rolling Stone, "When Your Manager Turns Jesus Freak", 26 October 1972. Accessed 16 April 2011
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- Associated Press. "Lawyer: Evangelist Tony Alamo, convicted on child sex charges in Ark., no longer hospitalized". Washington Post. Retrieved 20 November 2011.
- Williamson, Jim (2006-12-05). "Official: Clerk cannot contest ballot: Miller County Election Commission accepts vote from Tony Alamo". Texarkana Gazette. Retrieved 2006-12-29.[dead link]
- "Evangelist Alamo sentenced to 175 years on sex charges". CNN. 13 November 2009. Retrieved 2009-11-15.
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- Retrieved from http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090724/ap_on_re_us/us_evangelist_child_abuse[dead link].
- Gambrell, John (2008-09-26). "FBI: Evangelist Alamo arrested in child sex probe". AP via Yahoo News. Retrieved 2008-09-26.[dead link]
- Bartels, Chuck. "Evangelist Alamo arraigned on child-sex charges". Retrieved 2008-10-18.[dead link]
- Women: We were child brides in U.S., CNN, June 23, 2010
- Women Who Claim They Were Child Brides., The Oprah Winfrey Show, May 26, 2010
- LaRowe, Lynn (2008-12-03). Judge unseals Alamo papers. Texarkana Gazette, 3 December 2008. Retrieved on 2008-12-29 from http://www.texarkanagazette.com/news/localnews/2008/12/03/judge-unseals-alamo-papers-64.php.
- Tony Alamo Guilty On All 10 Counts
- "Evangelist guilty of taking minors across state lines for sex - CNN.com". CNN. July 24, 2009. Retrieved May 25, 2010.
- Gambrell, Jon (2009-07-24). Convicted Pastor Says He's 'One of the Prophets': Pastor convicted of sex abuse says he's 'another one of the prophets that went to jail'. Associated Press, 24 July 2009. Retrieved from http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory?id=8162634.
- KTBS (2009-11-13). Judge to Alamo: One day you will face a higher judge. KTBS, 13 November 2009. Retrieved from http://www.ktbs.com/news/alamo-gets-maximum-175-year-sentence.
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