In July 2013 the Underground Bunker first broke the news that Leah Remini had defected from the Church of Scientology. Now, we’ve learned that within the last year, Remini has been in talks to join a federal fraud lawsuit seeking refunds for former Scientology members, according to a sworn deposition.
Luis and Rocio Garcia of Irvine, California filed their lawsuit in Tampa, Florida in January 2013, alleging that they had been lied to and defrauded by Scientology employees in order to get them to donate hundreds of thousands of dollars that they now want back. The Garcias and their attorney, Ted Babbitt, said from the lawsuit’s onset that they were talking to other former Scientologists who also wanted refunds, and they expected some number of them to join the lawsuit. So far, none has.
But on January 6, former Scientology spokesman Mike Rinder, who has been working as a consultant in the litigation with the Garcias, was deposed in preparation for a February 18 evidentiary hearing, and he listed Remini as one of about a dozen former church members he has consulted in the past year about also filing litigation against the church.
In the deposition, Scientology attorney Bert Deixler asked Rinder about talking with former members about a “billion-dollar lawsuit” (Rinder said he hadn’t heard of such an amount), and a “class-action” lawsuit, but Rinder said he always discourages the idea of a class action. Deixler then asked Rinder to name specific people he had talked to in the last year about suing the church, and Rinder named Remini with several others.
When we contacted Rinder to ask him about the deposition, he said he was unable to respond because the litigation was ongoing. We also attempted to reach Remini for comment, but did not receive a reply. However, a source close to the actress tells the Underground Bunker that Remini is serious about pursuing a remedy for the large amounts of money she gave the church.
Like other former members, Remini had banked money for future courses that she will now never take. And she also made “very large” donations after being hounded by church representatives to help in campaigns which, like the Garcias, she now believes were exaggerated or presented under false pretenses.
For Remini, litigation against the church would be a return to the aggressive jabs she took at the expense of Scientology leader David Miscavige when she first left the organization. In August 2013, a month after her departure became public, she reported Miscavige’s wife Michele, known as “Shelly,” as a missing person to the Los Angeles Police Department. Shelly Miscavige had been a very visible Scientology leader in her own right until she suddenly vanished in late 2005, only re-appearing briefly to attend the funeral of her father in the summer of 2007. The LAPD reported that it had checked on Shelly’s welfare and that she wished to make no public statement, but more than a year later, Shelly has still made no appearances at church events or issued any statement. (We believe she’s been held in the same place since 2005, a secretive mountain Scientology compound near Lake Arrowhead, California.)
After that very visible challenge to Miscavige, Remini has spoken little publicly about Scientology and focused on getting her career on track. She landed a reality television series, and dealt with her Scientology defection in only a few minutes in the first episode. Since then she’s made guest appearances on numerous television shows without saying anything at all about Scientology.
Filing suit against Scientology would put her back in the role of church adversary, and in the universe of Scientology, there’s almost nothing more “suppressive” (Scientology’s word for evil) that you can do than sue the organization.
The Garcia litigation, meanwhile, is nearing a critical juncture. Federal Judge James D. Whittemore has been methodically preparing for the February 18 hearing, after which he will make a decision about Scientology’s contention that the Garcias’ complaints are religious in nature and the couple should be compelled to take their grievances to Scientology’s scheme of internal arbitration. The Garcias have enlisted former top Scientology officials like Rinder and Mark “Marty” Rathbun to make the point that Scientology’s arbitration is a sham, and was invented — in part by Rathbun and Rinder — in order to frustrate any attempt by former members to obtain refunds.
If Whittemore agrees with the former officials and finds that Scientology’s internal justice rules are spurious, the effect could be devastating — besides Remini, many other former Scientologists may be waiting for the opportunity to flood Scientology with lawsuits demanding refunds and repayments.
While he had Rinder under oath, Scientology’s attorney Bert Deixler spent a lot of time reviewing Rinder’s history in the organization in relation to the arbitration rules. But there were also entertaining exchanges about the “Independent” Scientology movement and about what Rinder has said about David Miscavige in interviews and at his blog. We’ll detail some of that material in a future post.
Could a Scientologist hoodwink all of Queens?
You have to hand it to the glamorous Meghan Fialkoff, daughter to wealthy Queens dentist Bernard Fialkoff. The two of them have been operating Scientology front groups right out of Scientology’s Times Square “org” for years, and yet the supposedly sophisticated New York City schools they infiltrate and local leaders they gladhand never seem to catch on that they’re being played for fools on behalf of L. Ron Hubbard.
And now, we are stunned to see that none other than a local TV news treasure — NY1 — got played as well, reporting Meghan’s latest coup: A “unity” march in Queens on Sunday organized in the name of Martin Luther King Jr., but really meant to promote Meghan’s sneaky Scientology anti-drug program, Foundation for a Drug-Free World.
Take a look at the piece from the NY1 reporter who even gives Meghan some face time…
Scientology fundraising with a militaristic theme!
We love Scientology fundraising videos, and this is one of the best we’ve seen in a while. These folks in Budapest went all out, and we think they’re simply precious with their militaristic theme…
Our tipster gave us this legend to the film’s titles….
00:10 Many attended the muster
00:18 An effective attack was launched
00:30 We have professional warriors
00:34 The first giant step is complete
00:46 Are you ready to continue?
00:50 Come to the next event
00:56 The final battle
This fundraiser was so successful, International Management sent recognition in the form of this nifty image. This planet will be cleared in no time!
Bonus photos from our tipsters
Yeah, what if spiritual freedom was your job?
Not making this up — actual Instagram caption: “White power 🙂 #flag … #superpower” (Someone might want to clue in the Russians about the connotations of “white power”)
Ha ha ha — we can’t stop laughing. The Hartford and Stevens Creek orgs shared this article thinking it was serious about joining Scientology? Oh, it’s too rich…
Scientologists are using social media more than ever. Drop us a line if you spot them posting images to Instagram or Facebook!
Posted by Tony Ortega on February 4, 2015 at 07:00
E-mail your tips and story ideas to email@example.com or follow us on Twitter. We post behind-the-scenes updates at our Facebook author page. Here at the Bunker we try to have a post up every morning at 7 AM Eastern (Noon GMT), and on some days we post an afternoon story at around 2 PM. After every new story we send out an alert to our e-mail list and our FB page.
Learn about Scientology with our numerous series with experts…
BLOGGING DIANETICS: We read Scientology’s founding text cover to cover with the help of LA attorney and former church member Vance Woodward
UP THE BRIDGE: Claire Headley and Bruce Hines train us as Scientologists
GETTING OUR ETHICS IN: Jefferson Hawkins explains Scientology’s system of justice
SCIENTOLOGY MYTHBUSTING: Historian Jon Atack discusses key Scientology concepts