For 24 years, they followed one man for the Church of Scientology. Then, for just over a single day, they came in from the cold.
By Tony Ortega
This week, we learned that a lawsuit filed against the Church of Scientology by two of its former private investigators was quietly settled, and no terms were made public. In September, before settlement negotiations began, the two detectives spent just more than 24 hours giving the only interviews to reporters they ever will. Here now is one account of that brief period that provided a rare window into the shadowy world of Scientology surveillance.
Junior was in the front passenger seat. Junior’s Brother, in the back. The car was speeding down I-37 to Corpus Christi for a reunion with Three, who hadn’t seen Junior and Junior’s Brother in about twenty years.
The Duke was no doubt aware of the meeting, and was probably in a high state of agitation over it.
The passenger van had left San Antonio at about 11 in the morning on Tuesday, September 25. It carried two attorneys, a reporter, and two men who had spent most of their adult lives trying to be invisible. They’re ex-cops from California who, in 1988, went to work for the Church of Scientology, and for the past 24 years were paid to spy on one man without revealing their presence.
They are Paul Marrick (“Junior”) and Greg Arnold (“Junior’s Brother”), and they were hired in 1988 by a church executive named Marty Rathbun (“Three”) on behalf of his boss, Scientology leader David Miscavige (“The Duke”), and spent more than two decades tailing Pat Broeker (“The Gardener”), whom Miscavige considered a rival to his leadership.
Code names were only part of the layers of secrecy Marrick and Arnold had to live with to remain human ciphers until just a few months ago. It was still difficult, they said, to talk freely about what they had gone through.
On September 20, they filed a detailed, amended complaint in a lawsuit against Miscavige and Scientology, saying that they had been promised employment for life by the church, which stopped paying them in June.
The lawsuit claimed that in spying on one man for so long, Marrick and Arnold gave up other opportunities in law enforcement and made themselves difficult to hire. The church, they said, made assurances that they would keep them on, even if The Broeker Operation ended. Then, suddenly, they were let go.
But more than an employment dispute, the lawsuit was remarkable for several reasons. Scientology is known for using private investigators to keep tabs on former members and journalists. But this assignment was special — only a handful of church executives knew anything about Marrick and Arnold and their work, Rathbun said. The sums were stunning: between $10 and 12 million, much of it paid in cash, to watch only one man. Investigators don’t usually sue the church, and Miscavige is rarely named as a defendant. And the venue — a small county on the Texas Coastal Bend — was an unlikely place for a court fight that threatened to ensnare two men rarely or never seen in public: Miscavige, and the man he wrested control of the church from, Pat Broeker. The unusual case was garnering national and international attention.
Multiple attempts have been made to elicit a comment from the church, which has not responded. Scientology spokeswoman Karin Pouw told the Tampa Bay Times that Marrick and Arnold’s lawsuit was a “shakedown attempt.” She said the two detectives were contract workers for the church, but didn’t provide specifics after saying their accounts were full of untruths.
After nearly two months of negotiations, the two sides reached a settlement and the lawsuit is over, it was learned this week. Terms are not being announced.
But on that day in September, Marrick and Arnold were preparing with their attorneys for a court battle, and their star witness was the man who first hired them in 1988, former high-ranking church official Marty Rathbun, who lives in little Ingleside on the Bay, near Corpus Christi.
Rathbun defected from Scientology in 2004. In 2009, he resurfaced by starting a blog that is highly critical of his former employer.
As a result, Marrick and Arnold were sent to San Patricio County that year to case Rathbun’s house and produce a surveillance plan.
“Here I am, surveilling the guy who hired me,” Marrick said, remembering that job three years ago.
Now, the two men were pulling up to the driveway of Rathbun’s home.
And they were being watched.
Greg Arnold was working for the Desert Hot Springs Police Department in California’s Coachella Valley when he says he was approached by another cop named J.J. Gaw about part time work in 1988.
“He said, ‘I’ve never told anyone this, but I’ve done work for the Church of Scientology.’ He asked if I was interested,” Arnold says.
Arnold agreed, and his first job for the church was to serve as a bodyguard for Gaw and a woman as they went to a federal penitentiary to interview a prisoner.
Arnold said he waited around as Gaw and the woman talked to Andrew Daulton Lee, the man convicted of espionage and drug dealing who was played by Sean Penn in the movie The Falcon and the Snowman.
“They wanted information on Robert Lindsey, who had written the book, and who was now looking into Scientology,” Arnold says. (An archive search shows that in the 1980s, Lindsey was indeed writing about Scientology for the New York Times — he wrote the Times obituary for L. Ron Hubbard when the Scientology founder died in 1986.)
“I don’t know what happened in the interview. I just went along as protection. It was easy money,” he says.
Gaw then asked Arnold if he wanted to ditch his police job and start to work full time for the church. Arnold, who had spent more than seven years on the force, says he was ready for a change.
Before he could be hired full time, however, he had to be interrogated. “They did an e-meter test on me,” he says, referring to the electronic device that Scientologists believe can detect negative thoughts by holding onto its metal sensors. Arnold was asked if he was secretly working for the government, or if there were other things he was hiding. He passed the examination.
Meanwhile, another of his Coachella Valley colleagues, Paul Marrick, was also recruited to join him.
The two young men — Arnold was 29, Marrick, 28 — were taken to Scientology’s secretive international headquarters near Hemet, California, where they met Marty Rathbun, who was then 31.
Rathbun was part of a youth movement in the leadership of Scientology, which had been raided by the FBI in 1977, resulting in the prosecution and imprisonment of eleven of its top officials, including Hubbard’s wife, Mary Sue. Fearing that he would be sucked into the prosecutions, Hubbard went into hiding in 1980. Only a handful of people knew where he was, and they included a young married couple who were his caretakers, Pat and Annie Broeker. Hubbard appeared to have named the Broekers his successors, but when he died in 1986, they were pushed aside by Miscavige.
Rathbun was part of Miscavige’s new cohort that had taken over the organization. Brash and competent, Rathbun had quickly risen in the church, and was serving as Miscavige’s trusted enforcer. What Miscavige needed done, Rathbun made happen.
“Marty gave us a briefing on the guy they wanted us to follow. He made it clear that this job was for David Miscavige,” Arnold says. “The target was Pat Broeker. They called him ‘Hubbard’s errand boy,’ and said he was an alcoholic. They said there was $1.8 million that was unaccounted for. So he was a thief and a drunk and they wanted him watched.” (They were also told Broeker may have stashed away highly secretive, unpublished Scientology writings by Hubbard, but Marrick and Arnold say they never found evidence of this.)
Today, Marrick and Arnold say little of what they were told was true. Broeker was not a drunk, he didn’t live like he had millions stashed away, and he was in fact a modest man who craved learning and lived quietly.
Now, they realize, they were put on Broeker simply because of the threat he represented to Miscavige’s leadership of the church. Having taken over Scientology in a power struggle, Miscavige worried that Broeker could speak out and undermine his claim to lead the church, they say.
But on August 8, 1988, they only knew that they were part of a team of investigators watching Broeker, who at that time was living at one of Scientology’s properties, a ranch near Creston, California, where Hubbard had died two years earlier.
“We were told it would be a three week assignment,” remembers Marrick.
[Continued on page two]