Tony Ortega is executive editor of The Raw Story and is formerly the editor of The Village Voice. He's written about Scientology since 1995, and has a forthcoming book about the subject. He continues to monitor breaking developments in the Scientology world from an undisclosed location in an underground bunker he shares with four cats and one of them wrinkly Shar Pei dogs. Despite his super-secret security protections, you can still reach him pretty easily by sending him a message at tonyo94 AT gmail.com (Drop him a line if you'd like to get an e-mail whenever a new story is posted.) [Header image courtesy John Rickard]
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Convicted of fraud by France’s highest court, Scientology still pursues creative appeals

ScientologyFranceOur man in Paris, Jonny Jacobsen, has another dispatch for us about developments with Scientology in France. Take it away, Jonny…

In the interest of tying up loose ends, here are a couple of items, both fall-out from France’s definitive conviction of Scientology for organised fraud last year.

The first deals with Scientology’s latest attempt to persuade people that the French state was the prime mover behind its recent fraud convictions, rather than the courts that actually judged them.

Continue reading Convicted of fraud by France’s highest court, Scientology still pursues creative appeals

Easter Sunday Funnies: David Miscavige has risen, & Scientology has more money than ever!

David_Miscavige_PopeHey kids, happy Easter Sunday! We have a selection of treats for you to hunt down this morning, and we’re starting off with another surprising tax document that shows the astounding wealth of the Church of Scientology!

Jeffrey Augustine has been helping us find these gems, and he tells us this one is hot off the presses — it’s the 2012 return by the Church of Scientology International, the mother church as it were. This is again a 990-T form, which reflects “unrelated business income” that since 2006 even churches have been required to submit if they’re taking in money unrelated to their main purpose. We’re less interested in the relatively small amounts of revenue listed on these documents than we are a single figure that appears on the first page — the entity’s “book value.” This is an estimate based on CSI’s total assets, including real estate.

Continue reading Easter Sunday Funnies: David Miscavige has risen, & Scientology has more money than ever!

Is Google aiding a Scientology front group that claims the Holocaust was caused by psychiatry?

GoogleLogoWe contacted Google’s media relations as soon as we saw what former Scientology spokesman Mike Rinder posted to his blog yesterday. It was a mailer from the Orange County chapter of the Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR), the Scientology front group that advocates against the psychiatric profession.

The mailer claimed that CCHR Orange County had secured a “grant” from Google and would be receiving $10,000 in advertising each month, which would be used in the organization’s “anti-psych campaigns.”

Continue reading Is Google aiding a Scientology front group that claims the Holocaust was caused by psychiatry?

The rising business star, his mother, and Scientology’s attempt to rip them apart

Aaron_Smith-Levin

On April 1, a story at Forbes.com caught us by surprise.

It was about a man named Aaron Smith-Levin, who made a living in an unusual way. Forbes writer Nathan Vardi explained that Smith-Levin was becoming known for the complex and deep research he did for hedge fund managers who desire intelligence about companies they might want to invest in.

And it was how Smith-Levin developed his skills that was particularly interesting. Though he never went to college, Smith-Levin learned his craft working for Kurt Feshbach, a prominent Scientologist and formerly the manager, with his two brothers, of a billion-dollar hedge fund in the 1980s and early 1990s. Learning the ropes at Feshbach’s Falcon Research, Smith-Levin had led investigations of multilevel-marketing enterprises, warning investors that they were scams. One investigation had even led to a crackdown by the Chinese government.

Continue reading The rising business star, his mother, and Scientology’s attempt to rip them apart

Leah Remini ‘Fair Gamed’ by Scientology? Her sister gets a visit, and Tony Dovolani is tailed

Leah Remini and Tony Dovolani, during their run on DWTS

Leah Remini and Tony Dovolani, during their run on DWTS

In her public appearances since she left Scientology last summer, actress Leah Remini has talked about losing many longtime friends who were ordered by the church to “disconnect” from her and her family.

She’s talked about how stunning it was to see how quickly people she’d known for decades suddenly turn their backs on her.

Our sources told us that she was devastated by that reaction, and her family worried that Leah might also experience Scientology’s infamous “Fair Game” operations — intimidation campaigns carried out with the use of private investigators.

Continue reading Leah Remini ‘Fair Gamed’ by Scientology? Her sister gets a visit, and Tony Dovolani is tailed

Scientology takes aim at the latest move by the Garcias in their federal fraud suit

Luis_GarciaMore than a year ago, Luis and Rocio Garcia filed a federal fraud lawsuit against five Scientology corporate entities, alleging that while the Garcias were in the church, they were defrauded as they were constantly hit up for donations.

When the lawsuit was filed in January 2013, it seemed like a landmark case — many former Scientologists are in the same position as the Garcias, having given large amounts to the church and wishing they could get it back now that they’ve left.

Continue reading Scientology takes aim at the latest move by the Garcias in their federal fraud suit

Jefferson Hawkins helps us understand Scientology’s L Rundowns!

Jefferson_Hawkins_ObeyWith the help of experts like Claire Headley and Bruce Hines, we’ve been taking a journey to train as Scientologists. Claire spent years working with Scientology’s “tech,” and was trusted to oversee the auditing of Tom Cruise. Bruce was in Scientology for 31 years and spent about half that time as a senior case supervisor. Go here to see the first part in this series.

For more than a year, we’ve been exploring Scientology’s “Bridge to Total Freedom,” step by step. We last left off after Bruce Hines helped us understand Operating Thetan Level Seven. That leaves us with one final level on the Bridge, OT 8. We plan to dive deeply into that final step on our journey.

Continue reading Jefferson Hawkins helps us understand Scientology’s L Rundowns!

Scientology litigation always has surprises: A new wrinkle from Narconon’s attorneys

ScalesWe’ve been keeping an eye on Ryan Hamilton’s lawsuits against Scientology’s Narconon drug rehab facilities in part because they’re so thorough. The Las Vegas attorney has obviously done his homework, and in the complaints he’s filed, he lays out the history of Narconon and its many deceptions with detailed citations. With references to testimony in other cases, he’s clearly trying to anticipate all of the objections and moves that Scientology has made previously.

So what does Narconon do? You’re going to love this. In one of the four federal lawsuits Hamilton recently filed, Narconon’s attorneys have complained that Hamilton’s complaint is too detailed.

Continue reading Scientology litigation always has surprises: A new wrinkle from Narconon’s attorneys

Sunday Funnies: The Writers of the Future and more success stories!

2014-WotF-30-Bookcover.inddIs it that time of year again already? Tonight, Scientology puts on its annual celebration of SF and Fantasy, the Writers of the Future gala. The celebration will anoint this year’s winners in writing and illustration, who are also featured in another year’s anthology (see right).

Once again, leading lights of speculative fiction will pretend that this is not Scientology’s attempt to burnish its image through the imprimatur of the likes of Orson Scott Card and Larry Niven. Over the years, some writers have wondered about the veracity of assurances they got from the Sea Org executives running the event that it was separate and independent of the church itself. And since so many stories about the dystopic world of Scientology workers came to light in the last several years, those questions were getting more pointed.

Continue reading Sunday Funnies: The Writers of the Future and more success stories!

Why is Scientology’s cruise ship caught up in a lawsuit about human slavery?

FreewindsHullIn 2005, two Cuban workers showed up in the town of Willemstad, on the island of Curaçao in the Caribbean, and said they had escaped hellish conditions at a nearby drydock facility, where they’d been held for years. A third worker had made his own escape from the drydock a few months earlier.

One of the three men had worked at the facility a decade. The other two had arrived in 2001 and 2002. They said that they, along with about a hundred other men, were forced into the jobs as part of a deal to pay off Cuba’s debt to the Curaçao Drydock Company. After they had arrived, their passports were seized and they had been working 112 hours a week and under dangerous conditions for only about three cents an hour. The rest of the $6.90 an hour they were supposed to be earning went to pay off Cuba’s debt.

Continue reading Why is Scientology’s cruise ship caught up in a lawsuit about human slavery?