Former wife of Alamo joins lawsuit
By Lynn LaRowe
Another former wife of imprisoned evangelist Tony Alamo has been added as a plaintiff in a civil lawsuit that names the ministry, church-run businesses and high-ranking individuals in the organization as defendants.
Pebbles Rodriguez claims Alamo married her in 1999 when she was 12. She left Alamo Ministries and separated from him in the summer of 2010, according to an amended complaint filed this week by local attorney David Carter.
“Pebbles just recently parted ways with those who still consider Tony Alamo as their world pastor,” Carter said. “She is no longer under the influence of those who make excuses for Alamo’s abuse and has chosen to assert her claims along with the other young ladies.”
Tony Alamo changed Pebbles Rodriguez’s first name to Yvonne when he took her as a bride, the amended complaint alleges.
The other plaintiffs include the five women who were named as victims in Alamo’s 10-count federal indictment and Nicole Farr. Farr allegedly was being groomed to be a wife when she “made a dramatic escape” from Alamo’s Fouke, Ark., residence, according to the lawsuit. Farr testified against Alamo during his trial, as did former child brides Jeanne Orlando, Desiree Kolbek, Jamie Rodriguez (who is not related to Pebbles), Amy Eddy and Summer Hagan. The five are named as plaintiffs in the civil suit.
A federal jury in July 2009 convicted Alamo of bringing minors across state lines for sex. Later that year, U.S. District Judge Harry Barnes sentenced Alamo to 175 years in prison. This year, an appellate court affirmed the convictions and sentence.
In the 83-page amended complaint, Carter describes in more detail how Alamo Ministries’ business enterprises are liable for the plaintiffs’ suffering. The businesses are Twenty First Century Holiness Tabernacle Church Inc., Gloryland Christian Church, Arms Full of Help, Tony and Susan Alamo Foundation, Music Square Church Inc., SJ Distributing, Action Distributors, Advantage Food Group and Jeanne Estates Apartments and individual defendants Sally Demoulin, Sharon Alamo and Steve Johnson.
The businesses operated for Tony Alamo’s benefit and the benefit of the defendants, the complaint states.
To demonstrate the collective nature of ministry-run enterprises, Carter points to the use of trucks.
“In one operation, the church business schemers would solicit donations to Arms Full of Help, a sham charity. The schemers would send one of the church business scheme trucks with a member driving the truck to accept the donations on behalf of Arms Full of Help,” the complaint states. “Then, the same worker/member in the same truck would change the sign on the side of the truck to read Advantage Food Group and sell the donated goods on behalf of Advantage Food Group. The money would then go into the ‘bookkeeper’ account for use by the church defendants and church business defendants. This was just one of the many schemes used to generate funds that perpetuated Tony Alamo’s child sex ring.”
Demoulin allegedly maintains control of a bookkeeping account to which funds from the business defendants are deposited and then distributed, the complaint states. Johnson, Sharon Alamo and Demoulin allegedly hold properties in their names and conduct business on behalf of Alamo Ministries. Property and business ownership is transferred regularly among members “in a shell game” to avoid creditors, the complaint alleges.
The complaint refers specifically to a business meeting held in the Fouke house Tony Alamo shared with his wives attended by Demoulin, Sharon Alamo, who also was married to Tony, and Johnson. According to the complaint, the three individual defendants witnessed an 8-year-old Desiree Kolbek stroke Alamo’s legs and thighs.
Alamo allegedly commented on the behavior by asking those in attendance if they thought he was “dirty” before “reminding them he was ‘Of the Lord,’” the complaint states.
According to the complaint, the individual defendants knew Alamo was sexually, physically and psychologically abusing the plaintiffs.
The suit asks the court to award the plaintiffs damages for their past and future medical expenses, past physical pain and suffering, past and future mental anguish, attorney’s fees and court costs.
The case has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Jimm Larry Hendren in the Texarkana division of the Western District of Arkansas.
The defendants have filed answers to the first complaint to deny the allegations. They have not yet responded to the amended complaint.
No hearings have been scheduled.
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