Daily Notifications
Sign up for free emails to receive the feature story every morning in your inbox at


Scientology staffers: Putting up with chaos and hardships as they hope for promised OT powers

David Miscavige announced recently that the new “Advanced Org” in South Africa has been deemed “Saint Hill Size.” That made us think of a piece Sunny Pereira wrote for us about her stint in the “Universe Corps,” the special troops that were the promised reward for taking your org to that mythic level. We thought you’d enjoy her account of parachuting into a foreign country in chaos to deliver super powers to a starving crew.

In May and June 2002, I was working at Scientology’s middle management building, the Hollywood Guaranty Building or HGB on Hollywood Boulevard and Ivar. (On the ground floor is the L. Ron Hubbard Life Exhibition.) I was part of something called the Universe Corps, and I was being groomed to be sent to deliver OT Levels to whichever org was next pronounced Saint Hill Size.

I know that’s a lot of jargon, so let me explain it a little. A big part of Scientology is the idea that its churches around the world, known as “orgs,” were constantly competing with each other to bring in more money and deliver more auditing and courses than the others. That competition was part of Scientology’s overall goal to “Clear the planet” and eventually take over the world.

So Sea Org and staff who worked at the orgs were always in emergency mode, trying desperately to do a little more each week than the week before. What they are all chasing is a mythical status known as “Saint Hill Size,” named after the booming mid-1960s at Saint Hill Manor in East Grinstead, England. With L. Ron Hubbard in residence, it was considered Scientology’s most golden of numerous golden ages.


And there was a special reward if you could get your org to that level of frenetic moneymaking: If you were declared Saint Hill Size, special troops known as the Universe Corps would be sent in to give staff members what they really craved: top secret, upper level auditing known as the OT levels, which they otherwise would never have the time or money to get on their own. It was a major promise made to exhausted staffers working around the clock to sell more, audit more, and bring in more people.

At the time, we were waiting to see which of three orgs was about to achieve that mythic status: Milan, Budapest, or Valencia, Venezuela. Since I didn’t know which would get there first, I was getting a crash course in three different languages, and I was hoping Budapest would win. (It seemed the most charming.)

At the last minute, in July 2002, I packed for Valencia. My team consisted of myself and one recruiter, Lucy. She had little training, but she spoke Spanish, which was great.

We left with our heads full of Scientology rules and regulations, but we had no information at all about the country we were heading to. Venezuela was in a full-blown crisis as its president, Hugo Chavez, had nationalized the banks and was working to nationalize the oil industry. There were daily protests in the streets which would soon turn violent, but we had no clue what we were flying into.

Lucy and I landed in Caracas and took a cab to Valencia. The org had invited all of the Scientologists from the area for an event to welcome us. We were greeted by
about 400 people and announced on a stage. The Valencia Org, located on Av de Bolivar, in a densely populated area of the city, was eight stories tall. We were given the entire eighth floor to prepare for OT Level delivery.

One problem: Neither of us were qualified to deliver OT Levels, and there was no way Scientology would allow the materials into such a tumultuous country.

Lucy spent her days trying to recruit people for the Sea Org and ship them back to the U.S. Getting people willing to sign a billion year contract was a task. I am not sure if she successfully recruited anyone.

Flag sent a recruiter, a flaming redhead teenager named Trevor. He didn’t speak a word of Spanish and managed to get around the bus system to other cities near Valencia. I can’t tell you how many times the bus stopped and demanded his passport. The first time he offered up his passport he was tossed in jail, accused of fabricating an illegal passport. They didn’t want his passport, they wanted cash. He got around Venezuela by offering cash whenever he was asked for his documents. His passport was stolen so many times that the US embassy recognized him when he came in for new ones. He didn’t speak Spanish, stood out in a crowd with his hair, he had no idea what he was doing, but he always came roaring back after his escapades. I don’t think he managed to recruit anyone for the Sea Org, but he had character and kept us entertained. I’d love to meet Trevor someday to hear his stories.

If we couldn’t actually deliver the OT levels, what were we doing there? We were really there as a PR move to make it appear that the Sea Org kept its promises, and that any org that went Saint Hill Size would get its Universe Corps.

But the deception wasn’t only coming from one side. After I’d been there a little while, it became obvious that there was no way this was a Saint Hill Size org. The staff was literally starving, which wouldn’t happen at a healthy org bringing in steady income. Augie Pinto, who originally opened the org, set up meals in the courtyard in the back of the org which consisted of beans and rice for the staff.

[As an aside, I’ll try not to get into a debate about what exactly was “Saint Hill Size.” A couple of weeks ago, at his blog, Mike Rinder said “As I recall the basic statistics [of Saint Hill Size] were 200 staff, 200 full time students in the Academy, $100,000 income per week and $100,000 VSD (Value of Services Delivered).” But my very strong memory is that we were told it required 600 auditing hours delivered, and Gross Income of at least $250K per week. When I included this in a first draft of this story, Tony laughed and said he wondered when all of us ex-Sea Orgers would remember that “if it isn’t written down (by LRH), it isn’t true,” and LRH never did, apparently, write down what Saint Hill Size was. Tony tells me his theory was that Hubbard kept it purposely vague so he could always change it, pulling that carrot just out of reach. He may be right about that.]

If I wasn’t delivering the OT levels, I was supervising a few students who were Clear, getting them through their Solo I Course. They all came in once a day to work through their checksheet items.

Meanwhile, the protesting was erupting all around us. Every day we went out during lunch and protesters were everywhere.


During the “pare,” the several-day shutdown of all retail businesses to show how many actually did not want Chavez in office, businesses were closed in front. We went in the back to get lunch. While we ate, we were threatened by a five-year-old with a gun for us to give us some of our change. Right after that, some of Chavez’s military men came in, laughing about the fact that the store was open, and the pare was fake.

I can’t tell you how many times we were nearly tear-gassed by military police for trying to walk through the crowd. One time heavy amounts of tear gas was used in front of the org during a heated exchange between the protesters and the military police, and it came through the windows and took hours to clear out the air. Wet towels soaked in vinegar became an item we had to have with us outside. It helped protect our eyes and mouth from the gas.

Guillermo, the Senior Case Supervisor Valencia Org, was a character himself. I couldn’t tell sometimes when he was joking. He came into course one day and said we had to end and leave before 9pm because there was now a curfew in place. I asked him what happens if we leave late? The military is allowed to shoot you. Seriously? We had that curfew for most of the time that we were in Venezuela.

Another effort to protest Chavez was a man who held a hunger strike in front of a government building in Caracas, and said he would not eat until Chavez was out of office. A photo taken of the man was part of a newspaper article on the front page of a major Venezuelan paper. We could see on his wrist, plain as day, was a Clear bracelet. No one in the org knew who he was or how he got the bracelet. As far as we knew, he was not actually a Scientologist.

Because Valencia Org clearly could not afford to give us expense money, this became the task of Flag, in Florida, to send it to us weekly. It was only $200 but that much money went far in Venezuela. The first time they sent us money, it was through Western Union. We quickly discovered the only Western Union office was downtown, where the Chavista protesters were, carrying guns and other weapons and looking for a fight. We discovered that Western Union only paid out about eight people each day, and we
would have to wait in line all night to make sure we were able to get our money. We managed to get our money that one time, but we then spent months arguing with the Treasury person at Flag to please send the money through MoneyGram, which was in a safer area of the city and also had a better chance of actually having cash. It was not her problem. She did not want to walk the extra block to MoneyGram when Western Union was closer for her (at Flag) and she told us we had to “Make it go right.”. I
repeatedly tried to explain to her the state of the country, the protests, how dangerous downtown was. She wouldn’t hear it. That extra block was too painful for her. I think I actually said “do you not care if we get killed here?” Maybe she thought I was exaggerating (which I wasn’t), because she repeated the only thing Sea Org members ever say when they don’t want to do something: “Make it go right!”

I think we only had a chance to wear our uniforms the first few days, when we discovered that people associated them with Chavez. We figured that out when we went to what we thought was a Scientology event, but it turned out to be an anti-Chavez meeting, including oil executives. We scared the daylights out of them with our uniforms. We quickly left, changed out of uniforms, and didn’t wear them again.

In total, I was in Venezuela for approximately eight months. There was little I could do there. I barely spoke Spanish, had no OT levels for the staff, and no secure place for them to deliver OT levels anyway.

And yet, we regularly got congratulatory calls from Los Angeles Office, saying what a great job we were doing and upholding excellent PR for the Sea Org and Scientology. I cringe.

My mother called me one day while I was there. It seemed odd to hear from her. We both had Sea Org jobs to do and rarely talked. She told me Erik, my stepdad, wanted to talk to me. He explained that he was ill and had only been given a few months to live. It was a difficult conversation to have. We both cried, and I told him I would try to get back to see him and my mom.

I asked my bosses in LA for permission to leave Venezuela. I was told that I would have to find and train a replacement for myself before I could leave, which was not going to happen. I tried to explain that my stepdad was dying. No, I was told. What I was doing in Venezuela was too important.

What I was doing was nothing. We were wallflowers, there to make it look like Scientology was doing well. The org was broke, starving and empty. We were not recruiting, we were not getting people up the Bridge, we were doing nothing. And they were telling me that was all more important than seeing my dying stepdad.

The only way I was getting out of there was by getting into trouble and getting recalled. If you cause bad PR, you get pulled back. And so I did. I flirted with a guy who bragged about it all over the org. It was a huge deal for him because I was American and an OT. He blew it way out of proportion and I essentially destroyed all good PR the Sea Org had.


While I was trying to leave, an oil strike was going on and lines for gasoline took up to 24 hours to get through. The lines were massive. I could see them from my eighth floor office going back for miles. I finally got the call. My out-ethics self had to get back to LA immediately. They told me I had 24 hours to report in. I chuckled to myself, you all have no idea what is going on here. I ran downstairs and waved down a cab driver. I asked him if he had enough gas to get me to Caracas in the morning. He said no, but he would wait overnight in the lines to get it and meet me in the morning.

Meanwhile, one of the auditors, Roxanne, asked me if I would take an e-meter to LA with me to get it certified. She handed me several thousand dollars in cash to pay for it and some back payments the org owed.

I met the taxi driver the next morning and he took me to Caracas. My Delta flight had been cancelled because the airlines didn’t have gas either. Delta office was closed and locked up. I just stood in the airport, laughing. I saw that Continental had one flight leaving that day to Houston. Theymanaged to transfer my ticket from Delta and I made it to Houston.

I remember getting my passport stamped in Houston, the man said, “Welcome back to America”. I was ready to kiss that airport floor.

When I got back to LA I was put under 24 hours watch, and was given a Committee of Evidence (sort of a Scientology court martial) and was demoted to a lower org. But I did get to see my stepdad, which I’ve previously written about here at the Bunker.

While I loved my trip to Venezuela and I met so many wonderful people, in a Scientology sense, it was a pointless trip. Like so many things in Scientology, it was a PR move to make it appear Scientology was doing well and expanding, when nothing could have been further from the truth.

— Sunny Pereira


Bonus items from our tipsters

Game on, Toronto!


And in Ohio, how is your awareness?



HowdyCon 2019 in Los Angeles

THURSDAY NIGHT OPPORTUNITY: This year’s HowdyCon is in Los Angeles. People tend to come in starting on Thursday, and that evening we will have a casual get-together at a watering hole. But we also want to point out that Cathy Schenkelberg’s “Squeeze My Cans” will be running at the Hollywood Fringe, and we encourage HowdyCon attendees to see her show on Thursday night, June 20. Tickets and more dates available here.

Friday night June 21 we will be having an event in a theater (like we did on Saturday night last year in Chicago). There will not be a charge to attend this event, but if you want to attend, you need to RSVP with your proprietor at tonyo94 AT gmail.

On Saturday, we are joining forces with Janis Gillham Grady, who is having a reunion in honor of the late Bill Franks. Originally, we thought this event might take place in Riverside, but instead it’s in the Los Angeles area. If you wish to attend the reunion, you will need to RSVP with Janis (janisgrady AT gmail), and there will be a small contribution she’s asking for in order to help cover her costs.

HOTEL: Janis tells us she’s worked out a deal with Hampton Inn and Suites, at 7501 North Glenoaks Blvd, Burbank, (818) 768-1106. We have a $159 nightly rate for June 19 to 22. Note: You need to ask for the “family reunion” special rate.



Scientology’s celebrities, ‘Ideal Orgs,’ and more!

[Elisabeth Moss, Michael Peña, and Laura Prepon]

We’ve been building landing pages about David Miscavige’s favorite playthings, including celebrities and ‘Ideal Orgs,’ and we’re hoping you’ll join in and help us gather as much information as we can about them. Head on over and help us with links and photos and comments.

Scientology’s celebrities, from A to Z! Find your favorite Hubbardite celeb at this index page — or suggest someone to add to the list!

Scientology’s ‘Ideal Orgs,’ from one end of the planet to the other! Help us build up pages about each these worldwide locations!

Scientology’s sneaky front groups, spreading the good news about L. Ron Hubbard while pretending to benefit society!

Scientology Lit: Books reviewed or excerpted in our weekly series. How many have you read?



[ONE year ago] Scientology tries to get a Christian minister in trouble for helping Dee Findlay burn her past
[TWO years ago] Professor Hugh Urban takes us to task for our review of his Scientology OT 8 investigation
[THREE years ago] Scientology’s champion endorses ‘Ruthless,’ and more in our weekly social media review!
[FOUR years ago] Leaving Scientology: ‘I think this recovery is something I’ll be doing the rest of my life’
[FIVE years ago] Scientology’s E-meter police, and the horse doctor of LaBelle, Florida
[SIX years ago] SCIENTOLOGY DENIED: CA Appeals Court Won’t Help Church in Forced-Abortion Lawsuit


Scientology disconnection, a reminder

Bernie Headley has not seen his daughter Stephanie in 5,433 days.
Valerie Haney has not seen her mother Lynne in 1,562 days.
Katrina Reyes has not seen her mother Yelena in 2,066 days
Sylvia Wagner DeWall has not seen her brother Randy in 1,546 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his grandson Leo in 609 days.
Geoff Levin has not seen his son Collin and daughter Savannah in 497 days.
Christie Collbran has not seen her mother Liz King in 3,804 days.
Clarissa Adams has not seen her parents Walter and Irmin Huber in 1,672 days.
Carol Nyburg has not seen her daughter Nancy in 2,446 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 3,220 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 2,566 days.
Dylan Gill has not seen his father Russell in 11,132 days.
Melissa Paris has not seen her father Jean-Francois in 7,052 days.
Valeska Paris has not seen her brother Raphael in 3,219 days.
Mirriam Francis has not seen her brother Ben in 2,800 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 3,061 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 2,100 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 1,812 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 1,338 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 5,427 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 2,567 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 2,887 days.
Roger Weller has not seen his daughter Alyssa in 7,743 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 2,862 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 1,218 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 5,520 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 1,626 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis in 2,028 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 1,900 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 1,483 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 1,978 days.
Mary Jane Sterne has not seen her daughter Samantha in 2,232 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 13,341 days.


Posted by Tony Ortega on May 1, 2019 at 07:00

E-mail tips to tonyo94 AT gmail DOT com or follow us on Twitter. We also post 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 new book with Paulette Cooper, Battlefield Scientology: Exposing L. Ron Hubbard’s dangerous ‘religion’ is now on sale at Amazon in paperback and Kindle formats. Our book about Paulette, 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, 1995-2018 Just starting out here? We’ve picked out the most important stories we’ve covered here at the Underground Bunker (2012-2018), The Village Voice (2008-2012), New Times Los Angeles (1999-2002) and the Phoenix New Times (1995-1999)

Other links: BLOGGING DIANETICS: Reading Scientology’s founding text cover to cover | 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 | 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

Watch our short videos that explain Scientology’s controversies in three minutes or less…

Check your whale level at our dedicated page for status updates, or join us at the Underground Bunker’s Facebook discussion group for more frivolity.

Our non-Scientology stories: Robert Burnham Jr., the man who inscribed the universe | Notorious alt-right inspiration Kevin MacDonald and his theories about Jewish DNA | The selling of the “Phoenix Lights” | Astronomer Harlow Shapley‘s FBI file | Sex, spies, and local TV news | Battling Babe-Hounds: Ross Jeffries v. R. Don Steele


Share Button
Print Friendly, PDF & Email