Longtime evangelist Tony Alamo owes millions of dollars in court-ordered restitution for abusing some of his former followers, triggering a nationwide hunt for assets still controlled by the Arkansas pastor.
The cult leader is currently serving a 175-year sentence for taking young girls across state lines for sex.
enlisted members of his church to help run a business empire that over the years has included a trucking company, a restaurant, a hog farm and a designer clothing line that made rhinestone-studded denim jackets for Hollywood celebrities.
Since starting his street ministry in Los Angeles during the 1960s, Mr. Alamo faced repeated allegations by former followers, some backed by court convictions, that he abused his flock—sexually molesting girls, ordering beatings and forcing adults and children alike to work long hours for little or no pay.
Former followers have won millions in court judgments, but government and private investigators say Mr. Alamo kept few assets in his name, making it difficult to collect.
Mr. Alamo preached polygamy and declared that girls could marry as soon as they reached puberty. He acknowledged disciplining followers with corporal punishment and forced fasting, but said all his views were grounded in the Bible. He has consistently denied any wrongdoing.
When Alamo was sentenced for taking girls as young as eight years old as his “spiritual wives,” U.S. District Judge Harry F. Barnes in Texarkana, Ark., also ordered Mr. Alamo to pay five of the girls—now young women—restitution of $500,000 each.
The Wall Street Journal says the five women
have filed a civil case against Mr. Alamo, seeking additional damages. Their case is scheduled for trial next year. […]
Mr. Alamo lost an appeal of his criminal conviction and is incarcerated at a federal prison in Indiana. He has appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. In January, he also wrote President Barack Obama to ask for a pardon on the grounds that he has a secret plan to bring peace to the Middle East.