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Reed Slatkin dies of heart attack — Scientologist served time as major Ponzi schemer

Reed_SlatkinMary-Jo Alburger, former wife to convicted Ponzi schemer Reed Slatkin, confirmed to us this afternoon that her former husband died Saturday at about 3 pm of a massive heart attack. He was 66.

“He was alone and he made it to the hospital. He seemed to know he was having a heart attack and he collapsed and fell dead,” Alburger told us in a telephone call today.

In 2003, Slatkin pled guilty to mail fraud, wire fraud, money laundering, and obstruction of justice and was sentenced to 14 years in prison. At the time, he was accused of operating one of the largest Ponzi schemes in history until it was eclipsed by the fraud perpetrated by Bernie Madoff. Slatkin had raised some $593 million in assets from investors before he was shut down by the Securities and Exchange Commission in May 2001 and was then raided by the FBI.

Much of that money Slatkin raised from his fellow Scientologists, and he siphoned millions for the Church of Scientology itself.

In July 2013, Slatkin was released from a halfway house and has been living in the Los Angeles area.

“He had a girlfriend. She was out of town when he died,” Alburger tells us. The girlfriend then contacted the two sons that Alburger and Slatkin had together, and they in turn notified her.


“I’m just very sad because he had such a tragic life. His life was tragic from the time he was 16 and he discovered his father had committed suicide in the garage,” she says. “So I’ve felt compassion for him.”

Slatkin was born January 22, 1949, and grew up in Detroit. Alburger says that after his father’s suicide, Slatkin was visited by his uncle, who ran a Scientology mission in the area. “His uncle came to the rescue and audited everybody.”

Alburger met Slatkin in Los Angeles in Scientology, and they were married for 27 years until 2003. They split up while he was incarcerated.

We asked Alburger if she’s still involved with Scientology. She said she wasn’t. “I can’t afford it,” she said. But she isn’t critical of the movement. “I don’t want to become part of that war.”

As for Slatkin, she had not heard from him since his release from prison.

“Despite what he did, people are very saddened and we’re getting a lot of condolence messages. It’s just very tragic.”

Attorney Scott Pilutik, who is also webmaster to the Underground Bunker, spent years watching the Slatkin case develop. “I’ve no direct experience with Reed other than helping amass the documentary record of his Ponzi scheme, but I did speak with a lot of people who were taken in and watched their money disappear,” Pilutik tells us. “Reed was quite the elaborate grifter, by all accounts. There was always a question as to Scientology’s involvement but I think the record eventually showed that Reed was a victim and true believer himself, which is small consolation to his supposed customers, who saw millions disappear inside Reed’s gradually evaporating postulate. One of his kids reached out to me a few years ago and was remarkably civil, given how how the website portrayed his father. Anyway, I wish the family the best and I’m sorry Reed never reached out and spoke to me.”

[Editor: Thanks to Garry Scarff for helping us locate Ms. Alburger after we first heard an unconfirmed report about Slatkin’s death.]


We didn’t get a chance to include photos in our book, so we’ve posted them at a dedicated page. Reader Sookie put together a complete index and we’re hosting it here on the website. Copies of the paperback version of ‘The Unbreakable Miss Lovely’ are on sale at Amazon. The Kindle edition is also available, and shipping instantly.

Our upcoming appearances (and check out the interactive map to our ongoing tour)…

June 23: Toronto (with Paulette Cooper) The “Getting Clear” conference

June 28: Clearwater, Florida (with Paulette Cooper) Clearwater Public Library, 2 pm, sponsored by Center for Inquiry-Tampa Bay and the Humanist Society of the Suncoast.

July 12: Washington DC, Center for Inquiry (with Paulette Cooper)

July 14: Hartford, MARK TWAIN HOUSE (with Tom Tomorrow)

July 17: Denver, The Secular Hub, 7 pm (with Chris Shelton)

July 20: Dallas, Times Ten Cellar, 7 pm (with Robert Wilonsky)

July 22: Houston, Fox and Hound, 11470 Westheimer Road, sponsored by Humanists of Houston

July 24: San Antonio

July 25: Austin

July 29: Paris (with Jonny Jacobsen)

August 4: London (with John Sweeney)

August 24: Boston, Boston Skeptics in the Pub, 7 pm

September 16: Arizona State University


Posted by Tony Ortega on June 23, 2015 at 16:00

E-mail your tips and story ideas to 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

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
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


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