Evangelist arrested over sex allegations

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The Independent US

FBI agents arrested evangelist and convicted tax evader Tony Alamo at an Arizona motel, alleging days after raiding the Arkansas headquarters of his ministry that he took minors across state lines for sexual purposes.

Alamo was staying at a hotel in Flagstaff, Arizona, when arrested, said FBI spokesman Steve Frazier in Little Rock.

The religious leader - who began his career as a California street preacher in 1966 - was scheduled for a federal court appearance today in Flagstaff.

Alamo is suspected of violating the Mann Act, which prohibits taking children across state lines for illegal purposes. Mr Frazier described those purposes as "sexual activity".

Several women were travelling with Alamo when he was arrested, but no minors were with him, police said.

Authorities did not say when minors were taken across state lines or which states were involved, but Alamo has ministries in California and Arkansas.

Federal agents and Arkansas state police had raided the headquarters of Tony Alamo Christian Ministries in tiny Fouke, Arkansas on Saturday and removed six girls ages 10 to 17. They sought evidence that children there had been molested or filmed having sex.

Prosecutors sought Alamo's arrest after interviewing the girls this week, but Mr Frazier would not disclose what the children said.

The Southern Poverty Law Centre, which tracks hate groups, describes the ministry as a cult. Alamo's church rails against homosexuals, Roman Catholics and the government, and Alamo has preached that girls are fit for marriage once they are sexually mature.

"Consent is puberty," he said in an interview last week from a telephone registered in the Los Angeles area while agents raided the compound. He denied any involvement with pornography.

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