You can either make a one-time donation to the site via Paypal...

...or you can subscribe and get billed monthly:

To join our e-mail list & get daily updates on new stories, e-mail us at
RSS Feed
Click here to add The Underground Bunker to your RSS Reader



Eric Saldarriaga faces sentencing Friday for the attempted hacking of the former church spokesman, who asks feds to look into Scientology’s alleged culpability

By Tony Ortega

Tomorrow in New York, Eric Saldarriaga, a 41-year-old Astoria, Queens private investigator, will be sentenced in federal court after pleading guilty to hiring a hacker to access private email accounts on behalf of his clients.

According to a story in the New York Times published in March, Saldarriaga was cooperative with federal prosecutors and is expected to receive a sentence of about six months. The story also explains that none of the identities of Mr. Saldarriaga’s victims or of his clients had been revealed.

However, this afternoon, just a day before the sentencing, the court received a “victim impact statement” from Mike Rinder (pictured), the former Scientology international spokesman who featured prominently in Alex Gibney’s HBO documentary about Scientology, Going Clear. In his statement, Rinder indicates that he was notified by the Justice Department that he was one of Saldarriaga’s targets for hacking, and he was invited to submit a statement to the court.

Rinder explains in his statement that although Saldarriaga’s clients had not been named, only one organization is interested in information about him — his former employer, the Church of Scientology. And he added that Scientology’s involvement was even more obvious once he heard from another of Saldarriaga’s victims.

That other victim is me.

In November 2013, I caught Saldarriaga “spoofing” one of the email addresses associated with this website. (It is not an address that I use for personal emails.) Saldarriaga had made it look like emails coming from him were actually coming from me — a stunt known as “spoofing.”

I immediately notified my attorney, Scott Pilutik, and then I confronted Saldarriaga, who claimed that he was also being victimized, and that a third party was using both of us in an investigation of a missing person, a person I did not know.

Pilutik assured me that Saldarriaga was lying. Pilutik is also webmaster of this website, and he assured me that Saldarriaga had not gained access to the email address he had spoofed.

There the matter stayed until I was notified, about a month ago, that I was being invited by the US Attorney’s Office to submit a victim impact statement in advance of the sentencing of Saldarriaga. It was the first I heard that Saldarriaga had been arrested or prosecuted. I was told nothing by the prosecutor’s office about what Saldarriaga might have admitted to when he pled guilty.

On my behalf, Scott Pilutik asked Saldarriaga’s attorney, Peter Brill, if Saldarriaga had been working for the Church of Scientology when he attempted to hack me. Mr. Brill repeated the missing-person story, and assured us that Saldarriaga was not working for Scientology. At that point, I felt I did not have enough information to file a victim impact statement and planned to let the matter drop.

Then, on Wednesday, I heard from Mike Rinder, who wanted to tell me about a potential story: He had been victimized by a private investigator who was being sentenced Friday in New York for hacking. Rinder sounded stunned when I asked if he was referring to Eric Saldarriaga.

Like myself, Rinder had been told nothing by the US Attorney’s Office about how he had been victimized, or who had hired Saldarriaga.

But now, there was little question about that.

“There can be no doubt that one of Mr. Saldarriaga’s clients is Scientology,” Rinder wrote in his impact statement, which he submitted to the court today. “One of the other victims of this crime is Tony Ortega….The ONLY thing Tony Ortega and I have in common is that we are at the top of Scientology’s enemies list because we have publicly exposed their abusive practices.”

As a journalist, I am reluctant to become involved in a prosecution or even to submit evidence to the court. However, in light of these events, I also filed a victim impact statement today and, like Rinder, urged the court to investigate and prosecute Saldarriaga’s client.

Such an investigation would be carried out by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which dropped a probe of Scientology for human trafficking in 2010. In 2013, I wrote about the complex reasons why that investigation went nowhere.

In this case, however, there is a convicted private investigator who has already pled guilty to hacking victims on behalf of his client, and who is much less important than the people who hired him. This would appear to be a fairly simple case for the FBI to pursue.

I’m making public both impact statements, by Rinder and myself, which became a part of the court record this afternoon. Rinder is being represented by Texas attorney Ray Jeffrey.

“I understand Eric Saldarriaga committed the crime of hacking my email account and has pled guilty,” Rinder wrote. “To me, he is merely the conduit and the real perpetrator of the crime is the Church of Scientology, which should not be allowed to escape scrutiny (or prosecution) as to how they are spending tax exempt money. I would like the US Attorney’s Office to pursue the CLIENTS of Mr. Saldarriaga, the ones who caused the crime to be committed.”

Here are the documents. First, Mike Rinder’s statement to the court…


Mike Rinder: Victim Impact Statement re Saldarriaga

And Tony Ortega’s statement:


Tony Ortega: Victim Impact Statement re Eric Saldarriaga

As Rinder points out, there is plentiful recent evidence of Scientology spending large amounts of money to pay private investigators to surveil people the church considers critics or enemies. In April, the Los Angeles Times revealed that Scientology leader David Miscavige had been paying $10,000 a week to two private investigators to follow his own father, Ron Miscavige Sr, who escaped from Scientology in 2012. Those private eyes were arrested for being in possession of an illegal silencer, part of an astounding arsenal they were carrying as they tailed Ron Sr., who is 79.

Rinder also points to the incredible story of Scientology paying two private investigators to follow one man, Pat Broeker, for 24 years, costing $10 to $12 million over that period. For one day, those private eyes talked publicly about their work for Miscavige.

And, as Rinder points out, all of this is according to voluminous rules considered sacrosanct in Scientology, which were set down in the writings of founder L. Ron Hubbard. A hacking attack would be entirely consistent with Hubbard’s dictum that Scientology never defends, but always attacks.

“I feel violated by this crime,” Rinder concludes in his statement. “It is my contention that Mr. Saldarriaga is a willing accomplice. I have no idea what private information he accessed. I feel I have a right to know what it is he did and who he did it for. He did not use any of the information for himself, he passed it on to his clients, whose intentions were malicious. Surely the clients have no right to anonymity or any protection under the law. They paid someone to do something illegal for their benefit – they wanted access to my personal information and they got it. I would like to know the details about what this was and believe they should be investigated and prosecuted. It is my contention that a Victim Impact Statement would be an empty exercise if the principal can remain anonymous while the agent takes the fall.”


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 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, Folc Restaurant, 6 pm

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 15: Arizona State University


Posted by Tony Ortega on June 25, 2015 at 14:15

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


Share Button
Print Friendly, PDF & Email
  • Rita Gregory

    Regarding robin hood 702, a victim of the same hacker. Does Davy like to gamble in Vegas? It seems I read that somewhere. Does anyone think he may have some secret casino investments?

    • Eclipse-girl

      Davey and Pat Broeker used to gamble together in Vegas, or that was the story I was read

      • Rita Gregory

        Thanks EG! Maybe Davy has a grudge over a poker game. 🙂

        • Draco

          Davy isn’t smart enough to play poker. The smirk on his face gave away a good hand every time.

      • Rita Gregory

        Pat Broeker was followed by Sci PI’s for umpteen years, wasn’t he?

      • Todd Tomorrow

        I’ve bet Dave has done away with Pat. He was last seen in Eastern Europe where lots of people vanish!

        • Draco

          ccording to Tony’s story at the time, he is alive and well and living in America somewhere.

  • Supper Powers

    It gives me some pleasure knowing that a bunch of lawyers are probably being made to go to New York tonight.

    • Lurkness

      They would be happy too. Extra $$$ at higher rates! I will not say more, as one should never get in the way of Miscavige aiming at his foot.

  • Rita Gregory Huh! According to whoever submitted this on behalf of Robin Hood 702 says RH is from or lived in Philadelphia.

    • Gerard Plourde

      Interesting. Miscavige is originally from the Philadelphia area. Could there be a conneection or is that fact just coincidence?

      • Rita Gregory

        I wondering if there is a connection with Scientology with every person the hacker hacked?

        • Gerard Plourde

          This is merely speculation, but suppose Robin Hood 702 is related to Miscavige. That would draw the line right to him and serve to defeat the layers of protection he usuallly builds up.

          • Rita Gregory

            Anything is possible. I like your line of thought on this.

  • Todd Tomorrow
  • Jonathan Cummings

    I wish the national press would pick up this story regarding the COS and the way it breaks the law by using PI’s to hack into email accounts and the other ways they terrorize critics and former members. I think we all know enough about the Kardashians and Caitlyn Jenner!

  • Pierrot

    *** RED X +–+ Reminder +–+ RED X ***Friday, 26 June 2015

    Good morning Night Owls and Early Birds,

    The week’s scores and RedX links:

    F5… Ranger by El Chief enhanced by DodoTheLaser for RedX, flickred by Aeger Primo

  • Todd Tomorrow

    I sure hope this overt act will be enough for Tony and Rinder to finally nail bM.

  • Jeb Burton

    Just got my TBT this morning. On the front page of the local section I see something that scared the bejesus out of me. “Scientology critics bring book tour”. Why is the city of Clearwater allowing these religious bigots and haters to invade our great city? I would warn all residents to steer clear of downtown as these hooligans and so called “bunkerites” are know to be dangerous and very sarcastic. Good luck citizens.

  • TheHoleDoesNotExist

    Allison has a knack of wrapping up an interview with stunning simplicity: “It’s just so crazy”.

    I am hoping between Tony and Mike there will be a comprehensive list submitted of scientology’s law firms and PI firms that act as hubs who subcontract their dirty work, to evidence a precise pattern that has been recorded and documented by police record and some of those subcontracted themselves. It would give facts and names showing why they believe scientology’s involved, how they subcontracted lawyers hire PIs who hire hackers.

    It would establish clearly that scientology tries to distance themselves, indicating that the leader and his lawyers know ! they have something to hide and cover up. Dont know what is allowed today in court, but I think the FBI might not be happy to know that Miscavige thinks he can buy them off like anyone else.

    Enron got caught because of bragging about impossible profits, about somehow having private information, steering other outside parties to their third party partners in crime, Anderson accountants. Not only can’t sociopaths change, but they also cant conceive anyone who cant be manipulated. It is their undoing time and again.

    • TheHoleDoesNotExist

      Oh yeah, I do believe at this juncture most of us are ready and willing to testify to our experiences as fair game victims. You cant argue with established patterns.

  • EnthralledObserver

    Holy shizballs… I missed this! Wow… arrogance again by Makemerich… hopefully this time the trail will lead directly back to his criminal minions and then himself… AND… that someone finally does something about it!

  • Mrs. V.

    I missed this yesterday and really bummed about it. Stupid work getting in the way of my life.

    Scientology is ridiculous. How dare they behave this way. Mike and Tony, I’m sorry you have to go through this. I’ll be reading the statements during lunch today.

  • File this one under Holy Shit!

    While I’d like to see the FBI take action, I’m almost certain that they won’t. If this guy gives up the lawyers, the lawyers are going to scream Soliciter-Client privilege, and there it will end.

    Instead I’d like to suggest a Kickstarter Campaign to hie Private Investigators to shadow David Miscavige and Gold Base. Lots of folks would LOVE to pay cash for this. Extra bonuses could be long lens photos of the top of Miscavige’s head while he’s on the smoking balcony, of the top of his head through a limousine window, of his aides lugging his apple crate around, etc.

  • PoisonIvyHerself

    I’m so glad I lurked today. Unf-ing believable. But SO in character for our friends at the CO$, no? I’m so glad you decided to give a statement, Tony, because as you eloquently said, ultimately this is an attack against all journalists if it is left to stand. FYI both me and one of my co-plaintiffs in our own current legal adventure have been hacked by our adversaries and it’s horrifying (problem is we didn’t catch the perpetrator and can’t prove it). The thing about always telling the truth though, is that you never have to make stories to cover it up. So sorry this happened to both of you, Tony and Mike, and great statements. By the way, Mike Rinder is, as always, an amazing writer and his statement also reads like a legal brief.

  • Lincolnbot

    This seems like it would be a slam dunk case for the FBI. I don’t understand the reluctance. Church status or not, this is ILLEGAL ACTIVITY, being paid for with tax-exempt money. TAKE NOTE, IRS!

  • Moonshot

    Tsk Tsk Tsk….the Grand Dwarf is not following LRH Policy with this PI hack attack strategy….LRH said “unexpected attacks in the rear of the enemy’s front ranks work best” …well, these types of attacks by SCN on critics are no longer unexpected are they? Ohhh…poor Dwarfenfuhrer, what is he to do now……

  • dagobarbz

    Scientology: where reporters become part of their own story. They can’t leave well enough alone, I think all they’ve got left is a handful of true believers and a bunch of kids raised into Scientology. I’m not saying this was a stupid move, but…

  • Empy

    Sadly, I just cannot find the optimism to believe that there will be any true followup to come from this. Or, at least, nothing that will connect up high enough to matter.

    Cynical? Yes, but based on history, also realistic. 🙁

  • Violet

    Any word on how the hearing went? The impact statements are well written. The feds have a bad habit of backing off at the last minute every time CO$ is involved, so I’ll believe serious action will be taken when I see it.

  • Surely this crime isn’t investigated completely until whoever paid the perp is found? The criminal organisation known as the “church” of $cientology may use “cut-out” law firms and so on, but surely the perp confessing and getting a slap on the wrist isn’t the end of it? How can the authorities be sure that the perp didn’t get a payout to keep other crimes hidden?