Department of Justice Letter to Don Beck, January 22, 1979

United States Department of Justice
P.O. Box 875
Washington, D.C. 20044

January 22, 1979

Mr. G. Donald Beck
Peoples Temple of the Disciples of Christ
1859 Geary Boulevard
San Francisco, California 94115

Re: Peoples Temple

Dear Mr. Beck:

The United States of America has incurred substantial costs and damages to date of $4,298,000 due to the recent tragic loss of life in Jonestown, Guyana. We believe that Peoples Temple of the Disciples of Christ, the Peoples Temple of the Disciples of Christ Church in Guyana, the Peoples Temple Christian Church Company Limited, and the Asociacion Religosa Pro San Pedro, S.A. are liable to the United States for these costs and damages. The publicity concerning the deaths and the filing of lawsuits arising out of the deaths indicates to us that the Federal Priority Statutes, 31 U.S.C. §§191 and 192, are applicable. Under those statutes, a debt to the United States must receive prior to payment and, a person who pays a debt on behalf of an entity indebted to the United States from the entity’s assets becomes personally liable to the extent of the payments for the debts due to the United States.

While we wanted to advise you about the claim of the United States and potential personal liability, we also have filed, or will shortly file, suit against each of the corporate entities to recover our damages and, we trust that the priority applicable to debts due the United States will be honored.

Thank you very much.

Very truly yours,
[signed] James G. Bruen, Jr.
James G. Bruen, Jr.
Special Litigation Counsel
Civil Division

cc: Charles R. Garry
Garry, Dreyfus, Mcternan, Brotsky, Herndon & Pesonen, Inc.
1256 Market Street at Civic Center
San Francisco, California 94102