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When love triumphs over Scientology: A fairy tale of New York for the holidays

Chris Tringali is the youngest of five children. His father was a chiropractor and high school teacher on Long Island and was well known in the community around Central Islip.

The three oldest kids were successes as well, but Chris and his brother Matt struggled. In high school, Chris turned to drugs and ran away from home a few times. He got married young and it was another struggle. He hated the work he was doing in construction.

In order to get his life in order, Chris became devoutly Christian and entered a couple of different drug abuse recovery programs. And then he happened to befriend a man who owned a private investigations firm, who offered him a job. Although Chris had no background in law enforcement, he quickly became adept at the PI work, doing investigations for insurance cases.

Meanwhile, Chris’s older brother Steve, who like their father had also become a chiropractor, and their brother-in-law, a dentist by the name of Bernard “Ben” Fialkoff who had married one of Chris’s sisters, had become involved in a business consulting organization called WISE.


WISE — the World Insitute of Scientology Enterprises — is a Church of Scientology front organization that targets chiropractors, dentists, and veterinarians with promises that Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard’s “business administration technology” can help them run their offices more efficiently and make them more money. When a business becomes part of the WISE network, it is expected to encourage its employees to take Scientology courses and become Scientologists themselves.

Steve Tringali and Ben Fialkoff had become Scientologists through their involvement in WISE, and were “on course” at the Long Island Scientology “org,” which was then in Hempstead.

It was his brother Steve who first brought Chris to the Long Island org to encourage him to get involved in the church and with WISE.

“I remember going with him to the Long Island org and thinking, ‘what a dump.’ I didn’t get involved. Then Steve ended up leaving, but Ben got deeper in,” Chris says. “Another year or so later, around 1992, Ben brought me to the Long Island org, now in Hicksville, and it was there I did my second personality test and paid for my first course.”

Another chiropractor was the Long Island org’s executive director. Chris was soon recruited to work on staff at the org, with the idea that he could continue to do his investigations work, but for the Church of Scientology. He began training for the position of “DSA” or Director of Special Affairs, the local representative of the Office of Special Affairs, Scientology’s secret police and investigations wing.

But before that could happen, WISE came to town. Two WISE officials from New York City visited the org, and one of them was a woman named Marie Guenat, who was recruiting.

“She was hot. I was a fool. She was flirty and I was recruited on the ‘help mankind’ button as well as the idea that if I joined the Sea Org I would get the ‘Bridge to Total Freedom’ for free. And there was no way I was ever going to make enough money to pay for the Bridge on my own, or so I believed,” Chris says.

He signed the Sea Organization’s billion-year contract, promising to dedicate himself to it utterly, lifetime after lifetime.

Chris says he was also asked to sign another document.

“I had to sign a waiver stating that Jesus Christ was not real,” he says.

We told him we’ve never seen such a document and asked if he’d found any examples of it online.

“No, never. Maybe they did that with me because I always had an affinity for Christ and Christianity?”

It was 1994, his first marriage was over, and he was now a dedicated Sea Org member working at the “Continental Liaison Office” (CLO) for the Eastern United States, which worked out of the New York City org on 46th Street near Times Square.

And it was there that he met another CLO executive by the name of Nancy Kraft.


Nancy had also come into Scientology through WISE. She had worked for a dentist in the network who encouraged her to take Scientology classes. Like Chris, she had recently been through a divorce, and was working around the clock as a dedicated Sea Org employee at the New York org.

At the CLO, Nancy oversaw the “delivery” of Hubbard “technology” at orgs in the Eastern US. By the time Chris met her, her unit had already won the “Birthday Game,” the annual contest between Scientology entities to bring in the most money. She was a rising star in Scientology. Her best friend pointed out that Chris Tringali, the new guy, might be a “2D possibility” — a potential new husband.

“I also had my eye on her,” Chris remembers. “One day, she was on course when I was on course and she needed a partner…no one raised their hand — she could be quite intimidating — so I raised mine,” he says. He ended up singing Elvis songs to her instead of doing their coursework. Their first date was rollerblading at night after work. In the Sea Org and its 112-hour work weeks, it can be tough to find time for a date.

“We went to see ‘Forrest Gump,’ and after the movie we went to a small park, where I proposed,” he says. They were married on September 11, 1994 in Central Park.


Meanwhile, both of their positions in Scientology’s busy hierarchy were changing.

Chris was the number three person in the WISE unit at the CLO, but the two people over him were both thrown into Scientology’s Sea Org prison detail — the Rehabilitation Project Force (RPF) — and suddenly Chris found himself in charge of WISE in the Eastern US.

While Chris struggled to keep up with weekly fundraising goals set by his predecessors, Nancy’s world was turned upside down as well. Without warning, a team from Los Angeles arrived and took over the CLO, and Nancy, who had led the unit to a Birthday Game victory only the year before, was put on manual labor.

“It was all a big mystery as to why she was busted. They were being treated very rudely, always having to run and not talking with anyone. I was getting pretty pissed off,” Chris says. “Then, the bomb dropped. They were being sent to Los Angeles, and with no explanation.”

Eventually, they learned that the sudden shuffling of personnel was part of a new initiative by Scientology leader David Miscavige called the “Golden Age of Technology.” For some reason, Chris says, Miscavige wanted teams like Nancy’s retrained for the new “technology” by putting them through a dramatic and intimidating series of shocks.

“It wasn’t until she got there that we found out the deal — she and her team were being retrained for the Golden Age of Tech. And after that? We had no idea. How long was the retraining? No answer. And what about 2Ds (spouses)? No information,” he says.

Then, another surprise. A few weeks after the retraining in Los Angeles began, Nancy learned that she was actually being considered to work as a personal assistant to one of the highest ranking executives in the entire Scientology superstructure — the Executive Director International, a man by the name of Guillaume Lesevre, who worked out of Scientology’s secretive “Int Base” some 90 miles east of Los Angeles.


And even though Chris was trusted to run WISE in the Eastern US out of the CLO in New York, his past drug use would never allow him to attain a position high enough to join his wife at Int Base, where only the elite of the elite in the Sea Org lived and worked. The best they could hope for was that he could transfer to the “Big Blue” headquarters in Los Angeles — known in Scientology as Pacific Area Command, or PAC base — and get a chance to see his wife on occasional Sundays. Chris says it was “normal” in the Sea Org for some couples to see each other only a couple of times a year.

Nancy was told they needed an answer from her about working for Lesevre. It was March 13, 1996, L. Ron Hubbard’s birthday.

“You will accept this promotion,” she was told.

All around the world, Scientologists were preparing to go to their local orgs to watch a video celebration of Hubbard’s birthday that had taken place earlier in Clearwater, Florida.

“As I was getting ready, Nancy called me from Los Angeles,” Chris says.

He was at the NY org on the ground floor, talking with the two 15-year-old Commodore’s Messengers Office girls who had been assigned to watch him as his wife was being considered for her promotion.

As the receptionist handed him the phone, Chris already knew something was wrong. Nancy would never have been given permission to call him while she was under so much pressure to accept a promotion.

“I asked, ‘Hey, honey, what’s up?” And she said, “Honey, I just blew. What are you going to do?”

Earlier that night, Nancy had been on her way to the Birthday Event, her naval Sea Org uniform draped over her arm. She was disillusioned, having been told that she had no choice but to accept the position at Int Base to work with Lesevre. As she walked, she was making up her mind what to do when a city bus pulled up in front of her and opened its doors, seemingly for no reason.

Reacting instinctively, Nancy tossed her naval jacket in a garbage can, and got on the bus.

She asked if the bus went to Los Angeles airport, and the driver said it would end up there in about an hour.

When she got there, she bought a one-way ticket to Syracuse, New York with a couple of layovers, including one in Washington DC. Then she called Chris to tell him that she was “blowing,” Scientology’s term for escaping. When she made that call, she had no way of knowing how Chris might react — some spouses also make their own escapes, but others don’t and stay behind in Scientology. Chris knew she was calling to find out if she was making her break for freedom on her own.

“OK, hold on so I can get to another phone,” Chris said and handed the receiver back to the receptionist.

One of the CMO girls asked, “What was that all about?”


“I told them that Nancy was a little upset and that I was going to take the call upstairs at the WISE offices. I then walked out of the room to the stairs going up to the third floor where my office was. As soon as I hit those stairs, I ran.”

The two CMO girls were in heels, and Chris knew that he could get a good head start on them and perhaps get a few moments to talk freely to his wife.

When he got to his office, he picked up the phone and asked Nancy where she was going. To her sister’s house in upstate New York, she answered, and she would be flying to the Syracuse airport.

“OK, I will see you there,” Chris managed to blurt out before hanging up as the two CMO girls burst into the room after him.

He lied, telling them that his wife was fine. The CMO girls told him to get going for the Birthday event.

He said he would, but he needed to change first. He went upstairs another floor to his berthing, which he shared with another man, and he packed a bag with enough to get him through a couple of days. He managed to make it out of the building without the CMO girls seeing him carrying his bag. He started walking.

“I started with Penn Station. But they didn’t have any northbound trains. Next I went to Grand Central. Same deal. I then went to Times Square and the Port Authority. The good news was they had a bus going to Syracuse airport. The bad news was that it didn’t leave until 11 pm. I had to wait a couple of hours.”

Chris hid out in a Times Square Burger King, and spotted the CMO girls looking for him. But he managed to get on his bus without being seen.

He slept on the bus and then at the Syracuse airport, waiting for Nancy to arrive on a flight.

“Sometime in the morning, as I was waiting, I heard an announcement: Chris Tringali, please pick up the courtesy phone.”

He assumed it was Nancy, trying to reach him. Instead, it was someone from the CLO.

“Chris, Nancy blew. You need to come back right now. Don’t let her out-ethics cause you to go out-ethics,” he was told.

“Screw you,” he told them. “I’m going to meet Nancy here, and we’re going to talk and figure out what to do next. I may or may not call you back.”

When Nancy’s flight got to DC, waiting for her was her best friend, Joan, who worked at the DC Scientology org.

The church had somehow figured out what flight Nancy would be on, and had someone waiting for her.

Joan tried to get her to come to the DC org, but Nancy refused, and got on her flight to Syracuse.

Chris was waiting for her when she arrived.

“We cried, we hugged, we swore we would never allow Scientology or anyone else ever to separate us like that again,” he says.

They stayed with Nancy’s family for a few weeks. “Her mom was in tears because she got her daughter back,” Chris says.

And Chris and Nancy became pregnant. (Having children is against the rules in the Sea Org.)

But soon enough, they were on their way back to the New York Scientology headquarters.

Chris explains that they did not want to get “declared suppressive persons,” which is the harshest penalty Scientology dishes out. If they were declared SPs, they worried that it would rip apart the family, and they didn’t want to alienate Ben Fialkoff and his daughter Meghan, who were still connected to other parts of the family.

They returned to the CLO offices and were put on “MEST work” — janitorial tasks. “We were going to route out of the Sea Org there, but then we were told that because of the new Golden Age of Tech, they could not get an auditor who was qualified to route us out and do the security checks on us.”

So Chris and Nancy paid to fly to Los Angeles, and stayed at Big Blue.

“It was really disgusting, especially the bathrooms. We were assigned to KP. She was on the dishwasher, I was on pots and pans. We weren’t allowed to talk to anyone,” Chris remembers.

Eventually, they learned that no one was around who could put them through the complex process of routing them out of the Sea Org. So they went to his brother’s house nearby and told the church they would wait there for the routing out to happen. After about four months of waiting, they simply left, going back to New York, and put Scientology behind them.

Sadly, they lost the pregnancy.

But otherwise, they flourished out of Scientology, and bought a house. Nancy went to work for Ben Fialkoff at his dentist office in Queens.

At one point, Chris says, Fialkoff asked him to help distribute Scientology literature in New York City’s schools, but he wasn’t interested. When Ben’s daughter Meghan was old enough, she took on that task.

Chris and Nancy, meanwhile, became committed Christians. “When Ben found out, he pulled Nancy into his office for like three hours trying to convince her that Christ was nothing but a myth and that Scientology was the reality. She didn’t buy it,” Chris says. She didn’t last much longer in the job.

The Fialkoffs were recently given Scientology’s highest award, the Freedom Medal, for the work they have done infiltrating New York’s schools with Scientology front groups.


Eventually, Chris and Nancy began reading about Scientology on the Internet. He says they were shocked to learn about abuses they had not been aware of when they were in.

On August 3, 2008, Nancy revealed that she had been posting under a pseudonym at an ex-Scientologist forum. She thanked the Anonymous movement for making it possible for more Scientologists to leave and to speak out. And she apologized to the people she had pulled into Scientology.

If I regged or recruited you, I am sorry. Please know that at the time I did not know about OT III and Xenu, and definitely didn’t know about OT VIII and the satanic, anti-Christ connections of L. Ron Hubbard. I didn’t know about LRH’s drug abuse, about David Miscavige’s lust for power and greed and his rich lifestyle. I didn’t know about those that were killed, the high mortality rate from cancer of OT’s. I didn’t believe all the stories of those who screamed of the abuses, and I really believed that the abuses done to you were corrected when I was trained and sent back as CO CLO EUS. I believed all the same lies that I told you. I really did think that you would become free (as I would) by going up the Bridge. I am sorry that I explained away the things that I did see, and put blinders on. I cannot change that now, but I can stand here, make myself a target and tell you to look, read, explore and get out.

Nine years later, Chris says he and Nancy are content. She works in the office of a construction firm, and he is the pastor at a church they started six years ago in Utica. “It’s an inner-city ministry,” he says. “We consider ourselves honored – It is the hardest job we ever loved, and more than a job. And even though one might say that it sounds a lot like what Scientology claims, we would disagree – Christianity is nothing like Scientology.

“On Thursdays the church goes out and gives away food to the needy, and we pray for people. No strings attached. We simply try to help. It is both very self-sacrificial and rewarding at the same time. And if we can help anyone else get out of Scientology, or help them come to terms with their experiences with the cult by sharing our experience, then I will gladly talk to anyone.”



Jeffrey Augustine and Valeska Paris: The cadet org

Valeska tells Jeffrey about what it was like to grow up in the horrendous conditions of the cadet org, where the children of Sea Org workers were prepared to become the next generation of unquestioning cogs in the machine.



Scientology disconnection, a reminder

Bernie Headley has not seen his daughter Stephanie in 4,967 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his grandson Leo in 113 days.
Clarissa Adams has not seen her parents Walter and Irmin Huber in 1,176 days.
Carol Nyburg has not seen her daughter Nancy in 1,950 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 2,724 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 2,070 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 2,564 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 1,604 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 1,316 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 842 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 4,931 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 2,071 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 2,391 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 2,366 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 722 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 5,024 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 1,130 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis in 1,533 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 1,406 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 987 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 1,492 days.
Mary Jane Sterne has not seen her daughter Samantha in 1,736 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 12,845 days.


3D-UnbreakablePosted by Tony Ortega on December 18, 2017 at 07:00

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 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


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