[KHTS] – A lawyer for victims of Tony Alamo, a former evangelist convicted of taking underage girls across state lines for the purpose of sex, discussed recently how Alamo’s abuse victims could soon receive a portion of the more-than half-billion-dollar judgment against Alamo.
Alamo, who’s known in the federal prison system as Bernie Lazar Hoffman, is 79 years old, and approximately four years into a 175-year prison sentence.
His prison term was the end result a 2008 arrest warrant federal agents executed on several properties reportedly controlled by Alamo’s ministries — including a Santa Clarita Valley lot in Saugus — which are at the heart of a recent court dispute.
“We’ve been litigating the children’s victims claims against Alamo and his related business for about four and a half years,” saidW. David Carter, a Texarkana lawyer with Mercy Carter Tidwell, in a Friday interview.
Carter represents seven victims who were awarded a $525 million settlement in February.
Carter suggested Alamo’s church officials were passing around property deeds to make it harder to collect the court-ordered awards.
“We expect that Twenty First Century is trying to convey the property to other entities — they passed titles around in their group,” he said. “We’ve been able to reach about 25 properties that were held in the name of members.”
There are dozens of properties in the church’s name and through the Alamo controlledTwenty First Century Holiness Tabernacle Church, Carter said, but very little of the damages awarded to Alamo’s victims have been paid.
In 2011, two men were awarded $30 million in damages after Alamo ordered them beaten at one of his compounds; in that case, Alamo’s followers declined to attend a May 1 court hearing.
Douglas Brubach, who claimed to own house in Fouke ordered sold, sent a letter to the presiding federal judge to explain why he wouldn’t appear in court, according to a Dallas Fort-Worth NBC affiliate report:
“I do not intend to be on hand for more of the same on the April 30, 2014, hearing,” Brubach’s letter states. “It appears to me our entire congregation has been tried and convicted with Pastor Alamo because we don’t believe he is guilty of all the abominable acts he has been accused of.”
A jury convicted Alamo of taking wives as young as 8 years old, as well as having people beaten and sexually abused at his command.
Alamo’s criminal history has cast doubt on claims Alamo’s made about his property, Carter said.
His two lots in the Santa Clarita Valley — his church site on Sierra Highway, a couple miles north of Rowher Canyon Road, and a 90-acre lot a little more than a mile north of Sand Canyon off Sierra Highway — reportedly could be worth billions, due to a valuable claim of water rights under the land.
The problem is, Carter said, Alamo made the claim in an email to one of his followers, to whom he also claimed his wife would resurrect from the dead.
Alamo reportedly hired some hydrogeology services to evaluate the property, and at one point, proposed to spend $17 million to drill wells, Carter said.
The general manager for the Castaic Lake Water Agency, the region’s state water wholesaler, questions the possibility of such a claim due to a number of factors.
“It’s my opinion that they wouldn’t be able to develop the water supply for export out of the (Santa Clarita Valley),” said Dan Masnada, general manager for the Castaic Lake Water Agency. “That water has already accounted for in the Santa Clarita Valley Urban Water Management Plan.”
In addition to a possible threat litigation threat, there are infrastructure issues making the movement of an amount of water to justify such value “nonsensical,” Masnada said.
“I’ll be the first to tell you Tony Alamo made statements or claims that turned out to be somewhat untrue,” Carter said. “The unresolved question is whether the water supply actually exists.”
The next sale of properties is expected to take place June 12, when the compound Alamo operated in Fouke, Arkansas, goes up for sale.
“That’s where he operated primarily from after his release in 1999 and before the raid in 2008,” Carter said, noting that was where most of the abuse took place.
It could act as a litmus test for how the property sales throughout the country are handled. Carter plans to be able to use the judgment against Alamo as a bid in the sale of the land.
Yet questions on the value remain of several plots remain.
“We’re not sure what access we’re going to have to the property before it’s sold — ideally we’d have the answer to the question (of water rights) before the public sale,” Carter said. “it will probably take a little time.”