Word Network Airs Dead Convicted Statutory Rapist Tony Alamo and Other Ex-Cons, Jim Whittington, and WV Grant

Three ex-con televangelists, including one now deceased, all have compared themselves to the Apostle Paul of the early church… you be the judge.

Tony Alamo AP Photo, Evan Lewis, November 13, 2009

Tony Alamo is dead

Tony Alamo’s boring half hour program currently is broadcast three times weekly on the Word Network: Tuesday’s at 7:30 pm and Thursdays at 3:30 am and 11:30 pm.

Alamo once lived in a lavish, 13,064-square foot mansion with a heart-shaped swimming pool; his ministry once had thousands of followers; and he operated many for-profit businesses.  One of his businesses sold custom-made sequined jackets to celebrities such as Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, and Mr. T., but that was before he was convicted of income tax evasion and “marrying” underage girls.

He was sentenced to prison twice—175 years the second time in November 2009.

Mr. Alamo was accused of taking young girls across state lines for sex and arrested in October 2008. Five women ranging from age 17 to 33 told jurors that Alamo “married” them in private ceremonies while they were minors, sometimes giving them wedding rings. Each described trips beyond Arkansas’ borders for Alamo’s sexual gratification.[1]

Alamo believed that young girls were fit for marriage. “Consent is puberty,” he told The Associated Press in 2008.[2]  A CNN news clip of his arrest includes audio of Alamo stating that women as young as twelve are ready for marriage as soon as they start their period.[3]

“I’m just another one of the prophets that went to jail for the Gospel,” Alamo called out to reporters afterward as he was escorted to a waiting U.S. marshal’s vehicle.[4]

A jury convicted Alamo in July 2009 of 10 counts spanning 11 years and on November 13, 2009, federal Judge Harry F. Barnes sentenced him to the maximum on each count, for a total of 175 years in prison.[5]

He died in a federal prison hospital in North Carolina in May 2017.

More of Alamo’s Legal Encounters

The Southern Poverty Law Center reported that “Alamo was arrested on a felony child abuse charge in 1989, but it was dismissed six years later. The case involved an 11-year-old boy who was given 140 blows at Alamo’s directions for minor academic infractions. His family later filed suit and won a $1.4 million judgment against Alamo and his ministry.”[6]

Federal agents raided his properties in 1991 when he owed $7.9 million in taxes.  He was convicted in 1994 of income tax evasion, served four years in prison, was released in 1998, and went back to his Arkansas-based ministry.

In addition to the criminal convictions, Alamo was found liable in a federal civil trial and ordered to pay $30 million to two men who were raised in the controversial Tony Alamo Christian Ministries. A jury found that those two men were beaten, starved, and denied education and found Alamo liable for conspiracy, outrage and battery.[7]

Another civil judgement was even more telling.  Seven women who were victims of physical and sexual abuse brought civil suits, resulting in a $525 million judgment, the largest in Arkansas history.[8]

More About Alamo and his programs

Mr. Alamo was born Bernie Lazar Hoffman on Sept. 20, 1934, and changed his name legally to Tony Alamo in the 1960s.

Tony Alamo Ministries New Jerusalem lives on through some of his followers who maintain a website with parts of Tony’s messages translated into over 50 languages.  The website contains letters from persons claiming his innocence and others asking then President Trump in 2017 to release him from prison as well as some 70’s gospel music programs featuring Tony and his then wife Susan.

(Screenshot: Tony Alamo singing gospel music, 1972, Grand Ole Opry House)

The Word Network / Tony Alamo programs recorded by Trinity Foundation consist of live and still shots of nature, of ominous looking clouds, of moving trains, and many still photos of Alamo–at times with one of his ex-wives, super-imposed over audio of Alamo’s Bible studies.  The programs also show followers proselytizing and distributing literature from the ministry.   So far, no video of Alamo preaching has been observed on the program.

Jim Whittington

(Screenshot from Jim Whittington’s TV program, 2021)

Whittington’s half hour TV program airs on the Word Network 3 times weekly: Sundays at 3:30 am and 2:30 pm, and Thursday at 3 am.

Now 82-years-old, televangelist Jim Whittington was convicted in 1992 of defrauding a wheelchair bound Florida woman out of $913,000 in money and assets and sentenced to 55 years but only spent 2 years 2 months in prison. He was released from parole in 1997 and his Fountain of Life organization’s tax-exempt status was revoked retroactively by the IRS from 1985 to 1990 which also left him owing $964,323.45 in individual income tax.

Eight years after his release from parole, on October 6, 2005, the North Carolina U.S. Attorney’s office reported to U. S. District Judge Malcolm Howard that Jim Whittington was living a lavish lifestyle while avoiding court ordered restitution.

The U.S. Attorneys presented evidence of Whittington’s personal expenses paid for by his World Deliverance Crusade church entity which included staying at the Ritz-Carlton in Jamaica, jewelry purchases from international jewelers, thousands of dollars in men’s clothing, spa treatments and a country club membership in Greenville, North Carolina. A Nov 1, 2005, DOJ press release announced that Judge Howard had reinstated the court ordered restitution from the early 90’s case.

Judge Howard stated, “This reckless and unnecessary spending would, under normal circumstances, be a matter left to the scrutiny of each of the sheered sheep in defendant’s flock. Here, however, the court itself voices its displeasure with defendant’s financial dealings because he has shown blatant and flagrant disregard for a prior court order and for the legitimate financial expectations of the victim of his past crimes.”

By 2006, Whittington had an early morning weekday show on Black Entertainment Television and his program was about to be broadcast on the Word Network, according to then NYT regional reporter Joy Cochran.

Despite his acceptance of “full responsibility” and his “complete remorse” at his 1992 sentencing hearing, Whittington has consistently claimed his innocence and his victimhood of religious persecution, comparing himself to the Apostle Paul.

While in prison, Whittington said the Lord spoke to him.

“He spoke to me that day and said, `You’ll go down, your life will go down in the books of remembrance numbered with the men of the Bible that went to prison for the Gospel’s sake,’ ” Whittington said.

WV Grant

WV Grant on The Word Network

WV Grant’s half hour TV program is broadcast on the Word Network one time weekly on Friday’s at 11:30 pm.

Faith healer Walter Vinson Grant, Jr., who goes by WV Grant used church member’s contributions to help buy a $900,000 mansion.  He and his wife Brenda were charged with income tax evasion.   And on Monday, July 22, 1996, U.S. District Judge Joe Kendall in Dallas sentenced the Rev. W.V. Grant to 16 months in prison, a $30,000 fine, and 100 hours of community service. Grant was also ordered to repay $253,000 he still owed in back taxes.

Both Grant and his wife, Brenda, filed a last-minute motion to withdraw their guilty pleas. Judge Kendall turned Grant down, telling his lawyer: “Did you watch the same videotape I watched? He’s all over it, admitting he’s guilty. He swore to God under oath that he is guilty.” “It’s almost surreal, like you all are from another planet,” the judge added.[9]

Brenda Grant on the other hand, was not found guilty.

Trinity Foundation investigators provided copious amounts of evidence in several spiral binders for use by prosecutors at the trial detailing Grant’s fanciful claims.

Here are a few of them:  He claimed to support 64 orphanages in Haiti that housed 3,500 orphans but was found to have supported only one orphanage housing 17 children. The Dallas Morning News chastised him for doctoring a news story after a Dallas suburb’s (Lancaster) tornado to make it look like he had been devastated by the storm.  Grant used it in a mail-out to solicit sympathy and “disaster relief” money from those on his mailing list. Grant claimed there were four times that persons died during his church services and God raised them from the dead, one of which two doctors had pronounced dead at the scene.  He claimed to have made 32 trips to Haiti when former employees said he only had made a few trips.  The list goes on.

“When asked how people should perceive his prior conviction, Rev. Grant said, “Jesus went to prison. Over half of the New Testament was written from prison cells. Paul was in prison. And I was in the ministry way over 20 years before I went. It was on a tax charge. I felt someone falsely accused me and had it in for me.” [10]

[1] AP/NBC News 2009 story, “Evangelist Alamo found guilty of kid-sex crimes”, July 24, 2009

[2] “Tony Alamo, Apocalyptic Ministry Leader Convicted of Sex Abuse, Dies at 82” Associated Press, May 3rd, 2017 obituary, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/03/us/obituary-tony-alamo-minister-sexual-abuse.html#:~:text=Alamo%20owed%20%247.9%20million%20in,served%20four%20years%20in%20prison

[3] Morlin, Bill “GAY-BASHING EVANGELIST AND CULT LEADER TONY ALAMO DIES IN PRISON”, Southern Poverty Law Center, May 5, 2017, https://www.splcenter.org/hatewatch/2017/05/05/gay-bashing-evangelist-and-cult-leader-tony-alamo-dies-prison

[4] NBC News 2009 story, https://www.nbcnews.com/id/wbna32125909

[5] “Evangelist Alamo sentenced to 175 years on sex charges” CNN, November 13, 2009, http://www.cnn.com/2009/CRIME/11/13/arkansas.evangelist.trial/index.html

[6] Morlin, Bill “GAY-BASHING EVANGELIST AND CULT LEADER TONY ALAMO DIES IN PRISON”, Southern Poverty Law Center, May 5, 2017, https://www.splcenter.org/hatewatch/2017/05/05/gay-bashing-evangelist-and-cult-leader-tony-alamo-dies-prison

[7] “Imprisoned evangelist, child sex abuser Tony Alamo dies in federal custody”, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, May 3rd, 2017

[8] Morlin, Bill “GAY-BASHING EVANGELIST AND CULT LEADER TONY ALAMO DIES IN PRISON”, Southern Poverty Law Center, May 5, 2017, https://www.splcenter.org/hatewatch/2017/05/05/gay-bashing-evangelist-and-cult-leader-tony-alamo-dies-prison

[9] “TV Minister Sentenced” Chicago Tribune, July 23, 1996

[10] Tearsa Smith, “Faith healer’s past draws crowds, skeptics in Knoxville, Rev. W.V. Grant served 16 months in a federal prison for his 1996 conviction.”  WATE TV (News 6), Knoxville, TN, March 22, 2004