Department of Justice Bills Officers of Peoples Temple

For the corporate officers of Peoples Temple, the problems after November 18, 1978 were not limited to the fact that their friends and relatives had died in a tragedy of monumental proportions, or that they had lost everything else besides – their livelihood, their possessions, the infrastructure that had sustained them – or that they were vilified by the media, the government, and the people of San Francisco and the rest of the country. About two months of the deaths, they also learned that, if the corporate officers paid any Temple creditor ahead of the U.S. government, then they would be considered personally liable for the debts incurred in recovering the bodies. from Jonestown and airlifting them to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.

On January 22, 1979, the Department of Justice informed Don Beck and the other officers of the Peoples Temple corporation that federal law allowed the government to bill the corporation for those costs – at the time, it was $4,298,000 – and that, as officers, they were “personally liable to the extent of the for the debts due to the United States.”

The matter was not pursued beyond the mailing of the letter.

U.S. Government Letter to Peoples Temple Officers, January 22, 1979, courtesy of Don Beck