6 Minors In Custody After Raid On Compound

An Arkansas State Police spokesman said Sunday six children have been placed in temporary state custody after a raid in a child-abuse investigation at an evangelical compound in southwest Arkansas.

State police spokesman Bill Sadler said the children will be in the custody of the Arkansas Department of Human Services as federal and state police interviews are conducted. Sadler offered no timeline on how long the interviews would last.

More than 100 federal and state police Saturday raided the Tony Alamo Christian Ministries in the rural town of Fouke as part of a two-year investigation into child-abuse and pornography allegations against convicted tax evader Tony Alamo.

"Should there be any long-term separation of the children from the Alamo property, a local court will make the determination as to the status of those children," Sadler said in a statement Sunday.

The search ended after midnight Sunday, and Sadler said officials had no plans to search the buildings again. The group planned to hold its regularly scheduled church services Sunday night in a former grocery store on the 15-acre complex.

U.S. Attorney Bob Balfe declined to comment when asked if an arrest warrant had been issued for Alamo or other members of his church. Balfe said before the raid that he expected a warrant would be issued for the 74-year-old leader. Prosecutors once labeled Alamo as a polygamist who preys on girls and women.

Alamo claimed in a telephone interview Saturday the investigation was part of a federal push to legalize same-sex marriage while outlawing polygamy.

Fouke Mayor Terry Purvis said that as he expected, authorities did not tell him what they found.

"In an investigation like this, they're pretty lip-locked," Purvis said.

The raid started an hour before sunset. Armed guards regularly patrol the headquarters, but there was no resistance as agents moved in, state police said.

Social workers interviewed children who live at the complex, which critics call a cult. The 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.

"We don't go into pornography; nobody in the church is into that," said Alamo, 73. "Where do these allegations stem from? The anti-Christ government. The Catholics don't like me because I have cut their congregation in half. They hate true Christianity."

Alamo and his wife Susan were street preachers along Hollywood's Sunset Strip in 1966 before forming a commune near Saugus, Calif. Susan Alamo died of cancer in 1982 and Alamo claimed she would be resurrected and kept her body on display for six months while their followers prayed.

In 1988, following a raid near Santa Ana, Calif., three boys whose mothers were Alamo followers were placed in the custody of their fathers. Justin Miller, then 11, told police that Alamo directed four men to strike him 140 times with a wooden paddle as punishment for minor offenses. Alamo was later charged with child abuse but prosecutors dropped the charge, citing a lack of evidence.

Alamo was convicted of tax-related charges in 1994 after the IRS said he owed the government $7.9 million. He served four years in prison.

Prosecutors in the tax case argued before sentencing that Alamo was a flight risk and a polygamist who preyed on married women and girls in his congregation.