Accused of Child Abuse : FBI Hunts for Cult Leader Tony Alamo
FBI agents Wednesday launched a manhunt for Tony Alamo, leader of a religious cult who fled the Saugus area amid charges he abused the child of a follower.
The manhunt was launched after an attempt to capture Alamo on Tuesday, when agents staked out and raided a home in Las Vegas after learning the residence had been rented by Alamo, using the name of Clarence Williams. Alamo fled before agents arrived.
Agents expanded their search to downtown and Strip hotels and motels for Alamo and his wife, Elanna.
Alamo, 54, the flamboyant leader of the fundamentalist Christian Foundation, operates the secretive Tony and Susan Alamo Foundation, known for circulating anti-Catholic literature. The organization, an offshoot of the Holiness Tabernacle Church with headquarters in Alma, Ark., is said to have branches in Illinois, Arkansas and Tennessee.
Alamo was named in a federal warrant for unlawful flight to avoid prosecution for child abuse in April.
The Los Angeles County district attorney’s office filed charges of felony child abuse against Alamo and five of his followers in October. Authorities said the group beat an 11-year-old boy, the son of a woman follower, 140 times on the buttocks with a three-foot wooden paddle at their commune in the remote Mint Canyon area of Saugus.
Alamo, in a telephone call to a Times reporter in April from an undisclosed location, contended that he was being persecuted by a “legal Mafia.” He said the boy was given “a very light, easy spanking” and “he didn’t even cry.” The Bible justifies spanking, he said.
The boy was removed from the commune by his father, who had rejected the group’s teachings. The boy’s story set off a raid on the commune by sheriff’s deputies who seized paddles, leading to the district attorney’s charges.
In addition to heading the religious group, Alamo reportedly owns a highly successful clothing business that manufactures and sells sequined Western wear, FBI agents said.