|Church Compound Quiet after Child Porn Raid
By Jon Gambrell
September 21, 2008
15-acre church compound was quiet Sunday morning following a raid by federal and state law enforcement officers as part of a child-abuse and pornography investigation. A prosecutor said an arrest warrant was likely.
A man at the gate of the Tony Alamo Christian Ministries turned away an Associated Press reporter Sunday morning. He refused to give his name and said no one was available to comment.
Police said the church complex would be allowed to open for Sunday services.
More than 100 state officers and FBI agents hit the compound Saturday in a raid that ministry leader and convicted tax evader Tony Alamo claimed in a telephone interview was part of a federal push to legalize same-sex marriage while outlawing polygamy.
Prosecutors once labeled Alamo as a polygamist who preys on girls and women.
Mayor Terry Purvis said he watched as the left around 12:30 a.m. Sunday. He said authorities did not tell him what they found.
"In an investigation like this, they're pretty lip-locked," Purvis said.
U.S. Attorney Bob Balfe did not respond to a call seeking comment Sunday.
The raid started an hour before sunset at the complex in tiny Fouke, in southwestern Arkansas. Armed guards regularly patrol the headquarters, but there was no resistance as agents moved in, state police said.
No one was arrested, but U.S. Attorney Bob Balfe said before the raid that he expected an arrest warrant for Alamo to be issued later. The federal investigation centered on the production of child pornography, while state police were looking into allegations of other child abuse, he said.
Social workers interviewed children who live at the complex, which critics call a cult. A two-year investigation involves a law that prohibits the transportation of children across state lines for criminal activity, said Tom Browne, who runs the FBI office in Little Rock.
In a phone call to The Associated Press from a friend's house in the Los Angeles area, Alamo _ who was also once accused of child abuse _ denied involvement in pornography.
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