UPDATE: Former Santa Clarita Valley Evangelist Alamo Hit With $500M Judgment
LYNN LAROWE | TEXARKANA GAZETTE (NBC NEWS CONTRIBUTED TO THIS REPORT)
A story in the Texarkana Gazette reports that a Miller County, Ark., judge awarded more than a half-billion dollars in damages to seven female former members of Tony Alamo Christian Ministries this week.
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A circuit judge in Arkansas has awarded $525 million in damages to seven women who were physically and sexually abused by Tony Alamo when they belonged to the evangelist's ministry, according to a report by Lynn LaRowe of the Texarkana Gazette.
The story also notes that Alamo holds water rights in Santa Clarita that are considered extremely valuable, according to court records.
A Sept. 24, 2007, email from Alamo to a ministry member speaks of the valuable water:
“This is the water report that Ray Wilson was telling you about. I’ve put a sticker on the page that tells that it is an inexhaustible source of water, said to be worth a billion or more dollars,” Alamo’s email states in the gazette's report.
A March 5, 2008, email from an Alamo loyalist to the ministry office states the water could be sold commercially to the city or county of Los Angeles for big profits.
The properties should be used to help Alamo’s victims, according to Texarkana lawyer David Carter, who's representing the plaintiff.
The plaintiff's lawyer introduced correspondence discovered during a search of ministry properties in Fouke, Ark., near Texarkana, which alleges that water rights on property Alamo holds in California are worth several billion dollars.
Miller County Circuit Judge Kirk Johnson entered a default judgment against Twenty First Century Holiness Tabernacle Church, an arm of Alamo Ministries, after it failed to respond to the civil suit, the paper reported.
Alamo was convicted in 2009 of bringing five girls across state lines for sex.
In the Santa Clarita Valley, Tony Alamo Christian Church still opertates at 13136 Sierra Hwy, Canyon Country, according to the church's website.
It's not the first judgment against Alamo.
Five young women who testified last year that evangelist Tony Alamo took them as "wives" and sexually assaulted them when they were minors are entitled to $500,000 each from his multimillion-dollar ministry, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.
U.S. District Judge Harry F. Barnes ordered restitution after a government witness said the women suffered physical and mental pain at the hands of Alamo, who is serving a 175-year prison sentence for taking the women when they were underage across state lines for sex.
His Santa Clarita Valley followers still post writings attributed to Alamo on vehicles in Santa Clarita Valley parking lots.
In his ruling, Barnes noted that each of the victims were assaulted by someone they regarded as a pastor and prophet.
"The defendant has truly, truly damaged these five young girls and I don't think any amount of money this court can order can replace their loss," Barnes said.
Prosecutors said they were confident Alamo, 75, could afford the $2.5 million judgment even though most of his assets are held in his followers' names. He will not have to pay the restitution until his appeals are exhausted.
Twenty First’s silence allowed Texarkana lawyer David Carter and Irving, Texas, lawyer Neil Smith to seek the default judgment and damages award, according to LaRowe's story in the Texarkana Gazette. The personal-injury judgment is the largest in the history of Miller County and the state of Arkansas, Carter said.
Tony Alamo, a one-time street preacher who became an outfitter of the stars and fought the federal government over claims he underpaid followers for church work, was convicted Friday of taking five girls across state lines for sex.
Alamo stood silently as the verdict was read, a contrast to his occasional mutterings during testimony. His five victims sat looking forward in the gallery. One, a woman he "married" at age 8, wiped away a tear.
"I'm just another one of the prophets that went to jail for the Gospel," Alamo called to reporters afterward as he was escorted to a waiting U.S. marshal's vehicle.
Shouts of "Bye, bye, Bernie" — Alamo was born Bernie Lazar Hoffman — came from a crowd gathered on the Arkansas side of the courthouse, which straddles the Texas-Arkansas border.
NBC NEWS contributed to this report
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