The dangers that lay behind Tony Alamo’s placid façade were unknown to a young Benjamin Risha. Tony, a preacher who founded a cult that grew into a multibillion-dollar business, pretended to be the only chosen messiah sent to Earth as God’s emissary.
‘Evil Lives Here: He Was a False Prophet,’ a documentary on Investigation Discovery, examines Tony’s life from his rise to his horrors and how he was eventually imprisoned for crimes against minor females. If you’re curious about this case and want to learn more, we’ve got you covered.
Who Is Tony Alamo And How Did he Die of?
When Tony Alamo died in 2017, he was still confined in federal prison. Tony met his wife, Susan, when she moved to Hollywood to pursue her dreams of becoming an actress. It didn’t take long for the two to develop feelings for one another.
Tony and Susan married in a Las Vegas ceremony in 1966. Three years later, in 1969, the couple founded the Alamo Christian Foundation, a Hollywood, California-based church.
Tony employed street preaching to attract new members to his foundation at first, but he soon decided that Dyer, Arkansas would be a better fit for his goals. As a result, in 1976, the church relocated to a new state and adopted a cult-like character, with Tony regarded as the one and only messiah.
While Tony’s teachings were vehemently anti-Catholic, he presented himself as the exclusive interpreter of God’s will. As a result, no one was allowed to criticise him or his methods, and those who disobeyed were allegedly tortured emotionally and physically until they complied.
People who questioned Tony’s demands were routinely belittled or screamed at, according to Benjamin Risha, who grew up in the village. Furthermore, the church had a few things that were strictly forbidden, and anyone who indulged in such thoughts or activities was frequently physically assaulted by the devil.
Tony eventually converted his cult into a multibillion-dollar corporation, employing his followers in a variety of church-run businesses.
The workers were required to donate their wages to the group in the name of God, despite the fact that the company manufactured a variety of products, the most popular of which were showy rhinestone-studded denim jackets.
Tony, on the other hand, made a tidy profit and amassed a sizable fortune. Tony, according to the show, entered a downward spiral after his wife, Susan, died in 1982. The cult leader initially believed his wife would revive from the grave. When it didn’t happen, Tony blamed his congregation’s faith and turned his wrath on them.
The FBI and IRS, on the other hand, began probing Tony’s companies, causing a schism in the flock. Finally, the show states that Tony began to mainstream polygamy by using a few examples from the Old Testament of the Bible to get spiritually married to multiple young girls.
His wrongdoings, thankfully, did not go unnoticed, and he was shortly apprehended by federal officials for crimes against kids.
Tony was found guilty of 10 charges of transporting minor females across state borders for sex after being brought to court and sentenced to 175 years in prison in 2009.
He remained in federal custody since then, spending his days at the Federal Medical Center in Butner, North Carolina, when he died on May 2, 2017, at the age of 82.
What Has Happened to Benjamin Risha And Where Is He Now?
Benjamin Risha revealed that when he was younger, he thought Tony Alamo was the only saviour. He became aware of Tony’s harsh and deceptive behaviours as he grew older, some of which left a lifelong scar on his mind.
Benjamin was one of Tony’s favourites, according to the show, but he stated that he observed the cult leader spread terror through mental and physical violence. Benjamin mentioned on the broadcast that if children or adults defied Tony’s rules, they would be physically abused.
Furthermore, Tony urged his followers to report one another, implying that no one in the society was safe to do as they wanted. When Tony found out about his romantic engagement with a girl, Benjamin claimed that he was exposed to physical assault.
When the FBI and IRS started looking into Tony’s business dealings, Benjamin relocated to New York with his stepfather and experienced his first taste of regular adolescence.
Benjamin was never allowed to meet his mother, and he was even told she had died, according to the episode. He did, however, find his birth certificate in New York and hunt down his mother in California.
Benjamin then chose to flee his stepfather and relocate to Fresno, California, with his mother. Benjamin earned a Bachelor’s degree in history from Humboldt State University as a child before going on to gain a number of other degrees in the fields of information technology and intelligence studies.
Benjamin currently works as a System Manager for an aerospace company and is also a fantastic non-fiction writer. In fact, in his book “The Son of Seven Mothers,” he elaborated on his experiences as a member of the Alamo Christian Foundation.
Benjamin has constructed a comfortable life surrounded by loved ones and currently resides in the Greater Seattle Area in Washington State, despite his attempts to keep his social media presence minimal.