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Garcias decry Scientology kangaroo ‘arbitration’ and ask judge to reinstate fraud lawsuit

[Scientology actor Jim Meskimen, right, with Garcia arbitration panelist Mike Driessen]

In October, Luis Garcia went on Facebook to declare that the Scientology “arbitration” he’d been forced to endure turned out to be an utter joke. But now, with a new court filing, we’re learning just what a farce the procedure was as the Garcias ask the federal court, once again, to restore their fraud lawsuit against the church.

We’ve been following this case now for five years, and our readers have seen it go through quite a few ups and downs. The Garcias donated huge sums to the church while they were members, and sued in January 2013 saying that they had been lied to and defrauded when they were pressured to give those donations.

But rather than hear their fraud claim in a civil trial, Tampa Federal Judge James Whittemore agreed with the church that because the Garcias had signed draconian membership contracts, they were obliged to take their grievances to an internal arbitration procedure, and he stayed the lawsuit.

The Garcias argued — and Scientology admitted — that the church had never run an arbitration in its history, and former top church officials testified that the contracts were a sham, written in a way to make it virtually impossible for members to get their money back. But Judge Whittemore denied every one of the Garcias’ objections, and he even ended up selecting the panel of arbitrators himself by sending letters to Los Angeles church members.

The arbitration was held October 23 and 24 in Los Angeles, and the panel of three Scientologists decided to give the Garcias $18,495.36 — money that reflected what the couple had put on account for accommodations at the Flag Land Base in Clearwater and for the Freewinds cruise ship but that they will never use.

The Garcias rejected the payment and have now filed a motion blasting the process and telling Judge Whittemore that not only was the procedure a kangaroo court, but that Scientology had lied to Whittemore about how the arbitration would proceed.

“This Court should vacate the arbitration award because the arbitration panel engaged in misconduct by refusing to hear any evidence critical of the Church,” says the motion, written by the attorney for the Garcias, Ted Babbitt.

The Garcias point out that Scientology’s “International Justice Chief,” Mike Ellis, had testified that the Garcias would be able to enter evidence and present their side in the arbitration. But in the actual hearing, they weren’t allowed to present any witnesses, and very little of the document evidence they submitted.

“The Plaintiffs tried to submit over 900 pages of evidence supporting their claims, but the IJC redacted all information critical of the Church. The IJC presented the arbitration panel with only 70 pages the Plaintiffs submitted.”

The Garcias reminded the judge that they had argued that as former Scientologists declared “suppressive” by the church, they could never get a fair hearing from a panel of Scientologists in good standing. But even they didn’t expect things to go as unfairly as it did.

The judge, for example, had ordered both sides to have no contact with the panelists before the hearing. But on the first day, October 23, the Garcias were kept out of the room as IJC Ellis “hatted” the panel to prepare them for the procedure, and gave them a highly prejudicial document about the Garcias.

“While the Court permitted the IJC to instruct the arbitrators on the arbitration process, the Court could not have possibly intended that this instruction permitted the admission of evidence outside the Plaintiffs’ presence for an entire day before arbitration began,” the Garcias argue.

And when the hearing actually began on the 24th, any time the Garcias tried to enter evidence of fraud, they were told they couldn’t do that because it was considered “entheta” — material critical of the church.

“When Mr. Garcia finally got a chance to speak to the arbitration panel, and mentioned his claims of fraud, the IJC cut him off and shouted, ‘WHAT YOU ARE SAYING IS ENTHETA’…the Chairman of the arbitration panel admonished the Plaintiffs, ‘we don’t want to hear anything about fraud because it has nothing to do with the purpose of this arbitration.'”

In other words, the motion explains, the entire process was a joke. “The proceeding here was a sham that does not deserve to be called arbitration. This was a star chamber proceeding, completely controlled from start to end by the Church, with no ability for the Plaintiffs to present their case.”

And they allege that there was fraud on the court, as well.

Judge Whittemore had specifically brought up whether a refund form called a “CVB” applied in this case, and the church’s attorneys had said no it didn’t because the Garcias were SPs. But once they got to arbitration, the only matter the panel would consider was whether the Garcias had properly filled out a CVB form..

“This was a fraud on the Court and should not be countenanced by confirming the arbitration awards,” the motion says.

Also, the Garcias were prevented from having their attorney present, but Luis discovered that the other side had its attorney nearby. He says in an affidavit that when he checked his iPhone, he noticed that there was a wifi hotspot in the building by the name of Gary Soter — the name of Scientology’s attorney. When he asked Ellis about it, the IJC admitted that Soter was in another room nearby in case they had any questions about how to proceed.

 

[A screenshot from Luis’s iPhone showing that Gary Soter was in the building]

But maybe our favorite details from the motion and from Luis’s affidavit are what we learned about two of the Scientologists on the panel, members who had randomly been selected by Judge Whittemore — Peter Sokoloff and Mike Driessen (the third panelist is not named in the documents).

Sokoloff, the chairman of the panel, turns out to be someone who has appeared in the Bunker in the past. Back in 2014, he was featured in one of our Sunday Funnies as a major donor to the Valley Org building project…

 

 
In the court documents, the Garcias claim that at one point Sokoloff gave this pretty amazing speech, reflecting just how impartial he was during the proceeding…

I am the wrong guy to talk to about that. You don’t know anything about me. I am a big proponent of the Ideal Org program and when you showed us that flyer I know what it says is true. I know the numbers! I know the Truth! We are making a better planet! For some stroke of luck the judge chose me out of a list of 500 people. And I know what is happening here: there are a lot of SPs out there trying to destroy our church and one of those SPs has fed you all these lies. One of your compadres, Ned McCrink, sent me a bunch of shit. I checked it out and it was shit! It was shit! So don’t you go telling me that I don’t know what is going on because I do know! You have been sold a bill of goods! What you should do is recant and atone, come back to the church and support it like before!

 
In his affidavit, Luis points out that the entire arbitration lasted only 50 minutes.

According to the documents filled out by the arbitration panel, the Garcias were asking for returns of…

$37,413.56 in donations to the Flag Land Base (FSO)
$31,445.45 for the Freewinds (FSSO)
$10,000 to the Orange County org
$40,410 in IAS donations
$340,000 in Super Power donations
$510,000 to the Ideal Org fund

After deciding that the Garcias had known what they were signing up for (and refusing to hear their evidence about fraud), the panel only refunded $18,495.36 for future accommodations at Flag and the Freewinds.

The Garcias refused the money, and now, once again, they have asked the court to reject Scientology’s attempt at internal “justice” and to restore their lawsuit.

“The arbitration was unconscionable and fundamentally flawed. This Court should grant the Plaintiffs’ motion to vacate the arbitration awards and order a trial on the merits of the claims in the Plaintiffs’ lawsuit,” they write.

 

Here’s the Garcias’ motion to vacate the arbitration results…

Garcia vs. Scientology: Motion to Vacate by Tony Ortega on Scribd

 
And here’s Luis’s affidavit about the events of the arbitration…

Garcia vs. Scientology: Affidavit of Luis Garcia by Tony Ortega on Scribd

 
And here’s an extra treat: The Garcias’ suppressive declare…

Garcia vs. Scientology: Garcia Suppressive Declare by Tony Ortega on Scribd

 
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Make your plans now!

 

 
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Scientology disconnection, a reminder

Bernie Headley has not seen his daughter Stephanie in 5,000 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his grandson Leo in 146 days.
Clarissa Adams has not seen her parents Walter and Irmin Huber in 1,209 days.
Carol Nyburg has not seen her daughter Nancy in 1,983 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 2,757 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 2,103 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 2,597 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 1,637 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 1,349 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 875 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 4,964 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 2,104 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 2,424 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 2,399 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 755 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 5,057 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 1,163 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis in 1,566 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 1,438 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 1,020 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 1,525 days.
Mary Jane Sterne has not seen her daughter Samantha in 1,769 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 12,878 days.

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3D-UnbreakablePosted by Tony Ortega on January 20, 2018 at 07:00

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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, 1995-2017 Just starting out here? We’ve picked out the most important stories we’ve covered here at the Undergound Bunker (2012-2017), 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 | 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

 

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