The evangelist Tony Alamo has been convicted of tax evasion and jailed after prosecutors said that he was a risk to flee as well as a polygamist who had preyed on married women and girls in his congregation.
A Federal District Court jury convicted Mr. Alamo this week of understating his personal income in 1985 and failing to file tax returns from 1986 to 1988. The charges carry a maximum prison term of six years and fines totaling $550,000.
Judge Jon McCalla ordered Mr. Alamo jailed pending sentencing on Aug. 26, citing concern over “the very great control Mr. Alamo has over a number of people.”
Mr. Alamo, 59, formed a ministry for drug abusers and the homeless more than 20 years ago that eventually grew into a multimillion-dollar enterprise with a string of businesses, primarily in Arkansas, Tennessee and California. The prosecutor, Christopher Belcher, said the businesses had earned more than $9 million over four years.
Mr. Alamo argued that he owed no taxes because he had no salary. He said the businesses financed his Christian ministry and the church simply supported him as its spiritual leader. He has declined to say how many members his church has.
After the verdict, Mr. Belcher requested Mr. Alamo’s immediate imprisonment. He said that Mr. Alamo might flee and that he posed a threat to his followers.
Federal officials said Mr. Alamo had married eight of his followers since early 1993, including girls who were 15 years old and women who already had husbands.
“He threw the husbands out of the church and took the wives,” Mr. Belcher said. One of the teen-agers was told that unless she married Mr. Alamo her family would be expelled from the church, Mr. Belcher said.
Since the trial was on tax charges, the jury did not hear testimony on the prosecutor’s allegations that Mr. Alamo had violated sex and polygamy laws. Mr. Belcher said such offenses would fall under laws against statutory rape in Tennessee and Arkansas.
Mr. Alamo’s lawyer, Jeffrey Dickstein, argued that accusations of polygamy were no reason to jail Mr. Alamo before sentencing. He said he planned to appeal the conviction.
Mr. Alamo, who has filed for bankruptcy in Arkansas, also faces a state child abuse charge in California, where he is accused of directing the beating of a church member’s 11-year-old son.
Mr. Alamo’s church and its businesses once operated out of a compound near Alma, Ark. The Holy Alamo Christian Church is now based in Canyon Country, Calif.