Leader Blues

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

TOP STORY > >The man who couldn’t stay out of trouble

By GARRICK FELDMAN
Publisher and Editor-in-chief

After he went to prison for six years for tax evasion and cheating his followers out of millions in wages, Tony Alamo should have thought about retiring from his phony Christian cult and stayed on the right side of the law, living out his golden years in a double-wide trailer somewhere in the Ozarks, not far from his native Missouri, singing “Volare” to himself as the sun went down.

But, no, this con man and former lounge singer hasn’t retired at all. Here he is, 74 years old, finally out of prison, and he’s still running his cult and exploiting his followers. But he could face new charges of child abuse, pedophilia and polygamy, not to mention selling fake Nikes to help make ends meet.

He denies all charges after federal authorities rescued six children from his compound in Fouke near Texarkana over the weekend. This is the Bible-quoting preacher who says pedophilia and polygamy are fine with God, not that he would necessarily get involved in such things himself, but it might be OK for others.

Many Arkansans think of Alamo as the poor man’s Jimmy Swaggart, but Tony has made a bundle in the preaching racket, losing most of it along the way. Before he went to prison, he filed for bankruptcy owing $12 million — he wound up losing his property in Crawford County, and he even stiffed his lawyers.

Law-enforcement officials consider him a racketeer who did not pay his workers at dozens of his businesses or pay their withholding and Social Security taxes — but he now faces possibly more serious charges of statutory rape and child pornography, if federal authorities can make a case against the dime-store preacher.

Tony talks so much about child brides, it’s no wonder he’s been suspected of not only pedophilia and polygamy — at least since the time his wife Susan died from cancer back in 1982. Before she passed away, she claimed in her sermons that God had cured her, but she was wrong about that. Tony kept her remains in their home for a long time, waiting for a resurrection, but she was eventually buried or cremated.

It’s a bit odd that he picked Fouke for his newest headquarters after leaving prison. But Tony has a weird sense of humor, and he probably liked the sound of the place, where this semi-literate has-been would plot his comeback, fighting the feds and the Vatican and ranting about how the government destroyed the World Trade Center on 9/11.

He’s not the brightest bulb in the house, but he figured out 40 years ago that when he combined his brain with Susan’s, they’d do all right. They ran the Susan and Tony Alamo Christian Foundation and lived lavishly as they exploited thousands of young people, who worked for him without pay and took all kinds of abuse for years.

Law-enforcement agencies are just now beginning to make a case against Tony and his sidekicks over the latest abuse allegations.

They could land him in prison for a lot longer than the last time, which would make him a very old man indeed when he gets out.