Tony Alamo

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Tony Alamo
Born (1934-09-20) September 20, 1934 (age 80)
Joplin, Missouri, U.S.
Occupation Convicted Felon
Spouse(s) Helen Hagan (m. 1961-1966; divorced); 1 child
Susan Alamo (m. 1966-died April 8, 1982; her death)
Birgetta Oyllenhammer (1984-19??; divorced)
Elizabeth Amrhein (19??-19??)
Children Mark Anthony Hoffman
Church Pentecostal
Congregations served
Alamo Christian Foundation

Tony Alamo (/əˈlɑːm/, born Bernard Lazar Hoffman; September 20, 1934)[1][2] is an American religious leader and convicted child sex offender.[3][4][5] He and his late wife Susan are best known as the founders of an organization currently known as Tony Alamo Christian Ministries, based in and around the towns of Fouke and Alma, Arkansas,[6] and has been referred to as a cult.[2][3][4][7]

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.[8][9][10][11] On November 13, 2009, he was sentenced to the maximum punishment of 175 years in prison.[12][13] He is currently incarcerated at United States Penitentiary, Tucson with the Federal Bureau of Prisons ID number 00305-112 according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons Inmate Locator.

Life and career[edit]

Bernard Lazar "Bernie" Hoffman was born in Joplin, Missouri,[1][2] to Jewish parents in 1934.[14][15] As a child he moved with his family to Helena, Montana, where he was briefly employed as a delivery boy for Helena's Independent Record newspaper.[16] 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.[17] He was briefly incarcerated for a weapon-related offense.[2]

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[14]), a Jewish convert to evangelical Christianity, who was nine years older than he, and married to a man whom Hoffman later described as a "small time Los Angeles hood."[16] After both Hoffman's and Lipowitz's divorces, the couple wed in a 1966 Las Vegas, Nevada, ceremony, and legally changed their names to Tony and Susan Alamo.[2]

Together, the couple established the Tony and Susan Alamo Christian Foundation in 1969 in Hollywood, California.[14] 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.[18] Susan delivered the sermons on the Alamos' syndicated TV program during the 1970s while her husband appeared to sing a gospel song. She was later diagnosed with breast 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".[19] After 16 years, her body was given to her family.[19]

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. Michael Jackson was reportedly a customer, owning two bib shirts of this brand.

After he and Oyllenhammer divorced, Alamo married Elizabeth Amrhein.[when?] 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.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed]

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.[20] On November 19, 2011, Alamo's attorney announced that Alamo had been released from the hospital.[21]



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.[1]

Child abuse case[edit]

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,[22] as part of a child pornography investigation.[23][24] 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.[25] Alamo denied the child abuse allegations.[26]

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.[27][28] On December 2, 2008, 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.[29] His trial began on July 13, 2009, and on July 24, 2009, Alamo was found guilty on all ten federal counts.[30][31]

On July 28, 2009, shortly after his conviction, Alamo made headlines by calling himself "just another one of the prophets that went to jail for the Gospel".[32] He was sentenced to 175 years in prison on November 13, 2009.[33]

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.[citation needed]


  1. ^ a b c Sherman, Bill (2006-12-03). "Storied evangelist still preaching: Tony Alamo continues to stir controversy from the Arkansas town he calls home.". Tulsa World (Tulsa, OK: World Publishing Company). Retrieved 2006-12-29. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Fisher, G.R. and Goedelman, M.K. (2001). "Remember the Alamo!". Personal Freedom Outreach. Retrieved 2006-12-29. 
  3. ^ a b Waters, Tim (1991-02-20). "Body of Cult Leader's Wife Stolen from Mausoleum". Los Angeles Times (Tribune Company). p. B3. Retrieved 2006-12-30. 
  4. ^ a b Ricci, James (1997-02-20). "Cult Leader Loses Ruling Over Dead Wife's Body". Los Angeles Times (Tribune Company). p. B4. Retrieved 2006-12-30. 
  5. ^ Singer, Margaret, Janja Lalich, Cults in Our Midst (Jossey-Bass Publishers, 1995) p.87
  6. ^ Alamo Christian Ministries' official web site directs inquiries to a Texarkana post office box. The Alamo Ministries compound is in Fouke, Arkansas
  7. ^ Francke, Eric W. (c. 2000). "A Brief History of the Alamo Christian Foundation". New England Institute of Religious Research. Retrieved 2006-12-30. 
  8. ^ AP Wire Stories
  9. ^ Federal Verdict Slip
  10. ^ CNN Breaking News Coverage
  11. ^ KHTV Little Rock (Local Coverage)
  12. ^ United Press International (UPI)
  13. ^ "Alamo gets maximum 175 year sentence",; accessed September 20, 2014.
  14. ^ a b c Tony Alamo Materials. Central Arkansas Library System
  15. ^ Lynn O'Shaughnessy (1987-12-13). "Alamo Won 'Top Male Vocalist' Contest Helped Him Follow His Own Star". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2008-11-18. 
  16. ^ a b Alamo Christian Ministries/Music Square Church info.; accessed September 20, 2014.
  17. ^ "When Your Manager Turns Jesus Freak", October 26, 1972; accessed April 16, 2011.
  18. ^ "Jury Convicts an Evangelist in Tax Evasion", New York Times, June 12, 1994.
  19. ^ a b ""Evangelist: 'Puberty' is age of sexual consent",, September 23, 2008.
  20. ^ "Attorney: Convicted evangelist Alamo hospitalized", November 19, 2011, via Associated Press; accessed September 20, 2014.
  21. ^ Associated Press. "Lawyer: Evangelist Tony Alamo, convicted on child sex charges in Ark., no longer hospitalized". Washington Post. Retrieved November 20, 2011. 
  22. ^ "Evangelist Alamo sentenced to 175 years on sex charges". CNN. November 13, 2009. Retrieved 2009-11-15. 
  23. ^ "Evangelist's compound raided in child porn case",; retrieved September 20, 2008.
  24. ^ FBI agents raid Arkansas ministry in child porn probe. (September 20, 2008). KCAL News (Los Angeles, California). Retrieved September 20, 2008.
  25. ^ Gambrell, J. (September 20, 2008). "Arkansas compound raided in child porn case", Freedom Communications, Inc.; retrieved September 20, 2008.
  26. ^ "Evangelist's compound raided in child abuse case". CNN. 2008-09-20. 
  27. ^ "Women: We were child brides in U.S.",, June 23, 2010.
  28. ^ "Women Who Claim They Were Child Brides", The Oprah Winfrey Show, May 26, 2010.
  29. ^ LaRowe, Lynn (2008-12-03). "Judge unseals Alamo papers", Texarkana Gazette, December 3, 2008; retrieved 2008-12-29
  30. ^ "Tony Alamo Guilty On All 10 Counts",; accessed September 20, 2014.
  31. ^ "Evangelist guilty of taking minors across state lines for sex". CNN. July 24, 2009. Retrieved May 25, 2010. 
  32. ^ 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'.",, July 24, 2009; retrieved November 13, 2009.
  33. ^ KTBS (2009-11-13). "Judge to Alamo: One day you will face a higher judge",, November 13, 2009.

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