Posted by Rachel Leigh email
TEXARKANA, AR (CNN) - Federal and state police raided an evangelist's compound in Arkansas late Saturday to investigate whether any children have been physically or sexually abused, officials said.
The raid is part of a two-year investigation into a compound near Texarkana, Arkansas, owned by Tony Alamo Christian Ministries, said Bill Sadler of the Arkansas State Police. About 100 agents were on the 10- to 15-acre site late Saturday and met with no resistance, he said.
Alamo, reached by phone in Los Angeles, California, denied any wrongdoing.
"It's a hoax," Alamo said. "They're just trying to make our church look evil ... by saying I'm a pornographer. Saying that I rape little children. ... I love children. I don't abuse them. Never have. Never will."
Asked why authorities were searching the property, Alamo compared himself to Christ.
"Why were they after Jesus?" he asked. "It's the same reason. Jesus is living within me."
It was not known how many children may live at the compound and whether Alamo would be arrested, Sadler said.
Federal and state agents were executing two search warrants, Sadler said late Saturday, and no arrest warrants had been issued.
"Children were interviewed and continue to be interviewed at this hour and likely will continue to be interviewed tomorrow," Sadler told CNN.
In addition to FBI agents and Arkansas state police, officials with the state Department of Human Services participated in the raid at the church property in the town of Fouke, about 12 miles from Texarkana.
Alamo, who turned 74 Saturday, is an evangelist who also has dabbled as a singer and entrepreneur. Critics regard his ministry as a cult. The group has faced lawsuits and government actions, and Alamo has been arrested several times, publications have reported over the years.
Alamo is well-known in Arkansas, said Lynn LaRowe, a reporter with the Texarkana Gazette.
"It's not very rare to come out of any baseball game to find Alamo literature on your car," LaRowe said. "Around here, he is an extremely controversial character."