Last July, we told you about the odd way Scientology had become an issue in a criminal case involving the illegal trafficking of art made of rhino horn, ivory, and coral.
At that time, Joey Chait had been sentenced to a year in federal prison for falsifying sales slips and otherwise aiding in the illegal sale of prohibited items that had been sold through his father Izzy Chait’s famous Beverly Hills auction house.
What caught our interest was that Joey Chait’s attorney, Judith Germano, had tried to convince the court that Joey had experienced significant abuse growing up in a Scientology family and working in its harsh “Sea Organization” and then for his father, who was really making the decisions about what items to sell. The Chait gallery had been caught selling objects made of rhino horn in a federal sting, but by the time charges could be brought, Izzy Chait had suffered brain damage during a heart attack and was mostly incapacitated. Charges were brought against Joey instead, but his attorney Germano’s sentencing memorandum seemed to influence federal Judge J. Paul Oetken, who disregarded prosecutors’ request for a 3-year sentence and instead gave Joey twelve months and a day.
Now, we’ve learned that Joey’s younger brother, Jacob Chait, 34, has also been charged with selling rhino horn and faces five years in prison. According to the US Attorney’s office in New York…
From approximately 2009 to 2012, Chait and his co-conspirators purchased rhinoceros horns and taxidermy mounts in the U.S. and sought to sell them to foreign buyers in private deals, including in at least eight separate deals or attempted deals involving 15 rhinoceros horns worth an estimated $2.4 million. This included one alleged incident in which Chait personally smuggled two endangered black rhino horns to China in his luggage. Rhinoceros horn is worth more per pound than gold due to the high demand in Asia and increasing scarcity of supply.
That sounds to us to be a little more serious than the allegations that had been leveled at Jake’s brother, Joey. And adding to interest in this case is that in 2012, Jake co-starred in a short-lived Discovery Channel reality series, Final Offer, that had Jake and his co-hosts buying and selling unique art and collectible items.
Will Scientology become an issue in Jake Chait’s prosecution, as it did in his brother Joey’s? We don’t know yet.
Izzy Chait was a hugely influential art buyer who specialized in Asian art and built up a major reputation for his Beverly Hills auction house. He was also very well known in Scientology, and rose to OT 8, the highest level of courses. He came to our attention when he helped out the “Squirrel Busters” intimidation squad by showing up at the Los Angeles airport to confront former church executive Mark “Marty” Rathbun in a bizarre 2011 incident that was caught on video.
Chait’s gallery was previously in some hot water over the questionable sale of art objects. Izzy, in 2007, sold a Mongolian Tyrannosaurus bataar skull to actor Nicolas Cage, and after the skull’s provenance was uncovered, Cage had to return it to the Mongolian government in 2015.
Joey Chait will be getting out of prison later this year. We’ll try to get an interview with him about the charges his brother is facing.
Not Scientology related: Finding Robert Burnham Jr.
Some of our readers have expressed an interest in our non-Scientology writing, and we have another of our lengthy features that we’re resurrecting today.
In 1997, we managed to track down the fate of someone whose name is very well known to a certain small set of enthusiasts: People who use telescopes and a particular guide to the night sky. Burnham’s Celestial Handbook became an indispensable and totally unique set of books that were unlike any other. Here was a comprehensive guide to everything in the sky you could see with a small to medium sized telescope, described in pages that seem to have been put together on a typewriter. Thousands of objects, described with great skill, over thousands of painstakingly put together pages. Who had completed such a Herculean task? What made it even more mysterious was that Burnham had seemed to have written almost nothing else.
On a whim, we started asking questions — who was Burnham, and what had happened to him? Thanks to a few lucky breaks, we managed to discover his amazing and sad story, and we put together a lengthy biography of him.
Our story is still posted at the Phoenix New Times website, but after 20 years, it no longer has any art, and it is poorly presented. So we decided to create a page for it on this website and include some of the photos from our collection. We think we owe it to Bob to present his story as best we can. We hope you can set aside some time and give it a look, then come back here and let us know what you thought of it.
HowdyCon 2017: Denver, June 23-25. Go here to start making your plans.
Scientology disconnection, a reminder
Bernie Headley has not seen his daughter Stephanie in 4,674 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 1,777 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 2,271 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 1,311 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy in 1,023 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 490 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 4,608 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 1,778 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 2,098 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 2,073 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 429 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin in 4,731 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 838 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis for 1,240 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 1,113 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 694 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike in 1,199 days.
Mary Jane Sterne has not seen her daughter Samantha in 1,443 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 12,552 days.
E-mail tips and story ideas to tonyo94 AT gmail DOT com or follow us on Twitter. We post behind-the-scenes updates at our Facebook author page. After every new story we send out an alert to our e-mail list and our FB page.
Our book, The Unbreakable Miss Lovely: How the Church of Scientology tried to destroy Paulette Cooper, is on sale at Amazon in paperback, Kindle, and audiobook versions. We’ve posted photographs of Paulette and scenes from her life at a separate location. Reader Sookie put together a complete index. More information about the book, and our 2015 book tour, can also be found at the book’s dedicated page.
The Best of the Underground Bunker, 1995-2016 Just starting out here? We’ve picked out the most important stories we’ve covered here at the Undergound Bunker (2012-2016), The Village Voice (2008-2012), New Times Los Angeles (1999-2002) and the Phoenix New Times (1995-1999)
Learn about Scientology with our numerous series with experts…
BLOGGING DIANETICS: We read Scientology’s founding text cover to cover with the help of L.A. 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
Other links: Shelly Miscavige, ten years gone | The Lisa McPherson story told in real time | The Cathriona White stories | The Leah Remini ‘Knowledge Reports’ | Hear audio of a Scientology excommunication | Scientology’s little day care of horrors | Whatever happened to Steve Fishman? | Felony charges for Scientology’s drug rehab scam | Why Scientology digs bomb-proof vaults in the desert | PZ Myers reads L. Ron Hubbard’s “A History of Man” | Scientology’s Master Spies | Scientology’s Private Dancer | The mystery of the richest Scientologist and his wayward sons | Scientology’s shocking mistreatment of the mentally ill | Scientology boasts about assistance from Google | The Underground Bunker’s Official Theme Song | The Underground Bunker FAQ
Our Guide to Alex Gibney’s film ‘Going Clear,’ and our pages about its principal figures…
Jason Beghe | Tom DeVocht | Sara Goldberg | Paul Haggis | Mark “Marty” Rathbun | Mike Rinder | Spanky Taylor | Hana Whitfield