|Arkansas Officials Seize 6 Alamo Compound Children
By Jon Gambrell
The Associated Press
December 3, 2008
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas child welfare officials seized six more children Wednesday from the Tony Alamo Christian Ministries as authorities in California visited another church compound, officials said.
Julie Munsell, a spokeswoman for the Arkansas Department of Human Services, declined to say where or how the children were taken into state custody.
"I believe they are all in general good health, just like the others were," Munsell told The Associated Press.
With Wednesday's operation, state officials have seized 32 children associated with the jailed evangelist's ministries over stories of alleged beatings and sexual abuse. Alamo, 74, faces federal charges in Arkansas that he took children across state lines for sex.
In California, child welfare officials accompanied FBI agents who went to ministry's compound in Santa Clarita, said Louise Grasmehr, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services. Grasmehr said no children were taken into state custody during the Wednesday morning visit.
An FBI spokeswoman in Los Angeles did not immediately return a call seeking comment. Steve Frazier, a spokesman for the FBI's Little Rock field office, declined to comment.
John Wesley Hall Jr., a Little Rock lawyer representing Alamo, said he had not heard about FBI agents going to the Santa Clarita compound. The morning after a Sept. 20 raid on Alamo's compound in southwest Arkansas, FBI agents visited the Santa Clarita ministry with child welfare officials but took no children.
"They could have just been there to pay a social visit, who knows?" Hall said.
Alamo, who was arrested Sept. 25 as he left a hotel in Flagstaff, Ariz., has pleaded not guilty to all charges against him.
Since establishing his ministries in Arkansas, Alamo has been a controversial and flamboyant figure. The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups, describes the ministry as a cult that rails against homosexuals, Roman Catholics and the government.
Alamo was convicted of tax-related charges in 1994 and served four years in prison after the IRS said he owed the government $7.9 million.
Alamo faces trial in February on the 10 federal child-abuse charges in Arkansas. Hall has said he may ask a judge for more time to prepare a defense because most of the charges were filed only recently.
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