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Another legal fight brewing over Scientology’s refusal to return future payments

[Benoit Levesque]

For several months now, we’ve been bringing you stunning examples of Scientology’s predatory financial behavior, with church staffers pressuring members, some of them elderly, to agree to outrageous charges on their credit. In each of the cases we’ve told you about, Los Angeles attorney Graham Berry was able to make those victims whole, convincing the church to return huge amounts.

Now, Berry is telling us about another case of Scientology’s high-pressure financial chicanery, but this time his client has not been made whole, and the church is stubbornly refusing to respond to requests to return more than $189,000.

Once again, Berry is sharing some eye-opening legal documents with us, taking us inside a case of his that is happening right now.

Quebec resident Benoit Levesque became involved in Scientology in 2011, and paid $5,000 for a lifetime membership in the IAS in 2013. He tells us that he did enjoy some of the beginning courses that he completed and has no complaints about them. But things changed when he came to Los Angeles in 2017 for the Purification Rundown and then for processes known as the “Objectives.”

“He was physically abused in ‘session,’ yelled at, emotionally harassed, ‘security checked’ (at his own expense), ordered to do ‘lower conditions’ including unpaid ‘body-routing’ on Los Angeles streets,” Berry wrote to the church in a letter this past April.

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“The Objectives was supposed to take around 125 to 150 hours, and it took me probably over 450 hours, which was probably over $60,000,” Levesque tells us, referring to the processes that we’ve been told are brutally taxing, both mentally and physically. “About two-thirds of that time I spent at Ethics, and received verbal punishment and brainwashing that I had to mostly pay for. And I got severely punished verbally in and outside the auditing sessions. At some point I could not stand it anymore. I tried to leave the auditing room, the auditor yelled at me, blocked me from getting out of the room. I was basically withheld in the room against my will. She told me to get back on the meter cans. I did not want to, but I realized that the more I was waiting to do it, the more money I was paying for the time.”

Even with those deprivations, and the draconian contracts he was made to sign, Levesque is not asking for a refund on the courses he did complete or the books that he paid for along the way.

Berry makes it very clear in his demand letter that what Levesque wants back is the large amounts of money he put “on account” for future courses that he will now never take.

“In or about 2012…Mr. Levesque was unduly pressured (‘crim-regged’) to pay US$116,782.56 to the Church of Scientology Flag Service Organization (‘FLAG’) for future training and auditing services, and US$13,807.40 for future accommodation expenses associated therewith.”

With other payments and attorney’s fees, Levesque is asking Scientology for a total of $189,431.76.

“Mr. Levesque became very frustrated and disgruntled over his lack of progress up the Church’s ‘Bridge to Total Freedom,’ for which he had paid so much money. In fact, and in breach of Civil Code §1770(a)(14), the Church even denied Mr. Levesque the auditing for which he had made the ‘advance payments on account for future services.’ He unsuccessfully fought against this denial of auditing for an extended period. Finally, on June 2, 2018, he sent a Request for Repayment to Flag.”

Berry tells us that Levesque has formally informed the church that he is no longer a member, and so he is no longer subject to its “religious” policies. In the demand letter, Berry informs the church that the dispute has no religious angle…

Mr. Levesque’s deposit with the Church of ‘advanced payments on account for future services’ involved secular transactions with fiduciary obligations by the Church, that are subject to the protections, remedies and restitution rights provided by the criminal and civil laws. It does not concern matters of religious belief or practice. Extortion, the theft or conversion of parishioner monies, embezzlement, the resulting breach of fiduciary duties, fraud, etc., are all secular matters for adjudication in the ordinary courts.

Berry sent that demand letter in April. On June 15, Levesque received a letter from Scientology’s Flag Service Organization, which runs the Flag Land Base in Clearwater, Florida…

 

 
In other words, Scientology was asking Levesque to dump his attorney, fill out a form, and come to the Flag Land Base in Florida to talk things over.

Berry wasn’t amused. In a letter to Scientology attorney Kendrick Moxon dated July 19, he wrote…

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Mr. Levesque spent two years requesting “repayment” of his advanced payments on account. He was largely, if not totally, ignored until the church’s receipt of my April 20, 2019, letter and exhibits. Now the church wants him to expend further substantial time and money visiting Clearwater Florida to undergo the CVB routing-out procedure which, as a non-Scientologist, he should not be subjected to. And at the end of that process (which can take many weeks) he may still be denied repayment of his substantial “monies on account” (“just as if they were in the bank”) and “declared suppressive.”

And…

Mr. Levesque wants nothing more than to get on with his life and conclude this matter with Scientology on the best possible terms. Mr. Levesque is merely asking for Scientology to comply with Mr. Hubbard’s “Doctrine of Exchange” and return the unused portion of his “advanced payments on account.” He is also requesting that the CVB routing form requirement be waived in the circumstances of his particular “case,” and his money “on account” immediately returned in full. A trip to Flag would be unproductive for both Flag terminals and my client.

 
Once again, however, Scientology bypassed Berry and wrote directly to Levesque in a letter dated August 5:

 

 
Berry says he’s sending over one more letter, pointing out some case law about how former members of a church are no longer obligated to follow that church’s internal policies, and if that letter still gets them nowhere, “if need be Benoit will file suit.”

We can hardly wait to see how the church responds.

 
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Bonus items from our tipsters

And you doubters say OTs never show off their levitation powers…

 

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

[Jenna Elfman, Giovanni Ribisi, and Greta Van Susteren]

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?

 
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THE WHOLE TRACK

[ONE year ago] Some countries force Scientology to open the books: Here’s one report on how bad business is
[TWO years ago] LIVE FROM SAN ANTONIO: Will a former Scientology enforcer be compelled to testify?
[THREE years ago] A Scientologist on the ballot: OC candidate keeping mum about his anti-psych work
[FOUR years ago] Louisiana congressman posts Narconon pic, then yanks it after we point out Scientology link
[FIVE years ago] Scientology yesterday and today: Reports from Mark Bunker and Dennis Erlich
[SIX years ago] What the Daily News Left Out of its Story on Scientology in Harlem
[SEVEN years ago] Court Testimony: Narconon Intentionally Deceived a Florida Drug Court About Its Licensing
[EIGHT years ago] The Top 25 People Crippling Scientology, No. 15: Andreas Heldal-Lund

 
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Scientology disconnection, a reminder

Bernie Headley has not seen his daughter Stephanie in 5,553 days.
Valerie Haney has not seen her mother Lynne in 1,682 days.
Katrina Reyes has not seen her mother Yelena in 2,186 days
Sylvia Wagner DeWall has not seen her brother Randy in 1,706 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his grandson Leo in 726 days.
Geoff Levin has not seen his son Collin and daughter Savannah in 617 days.
Christie Collbran has not seen her mother Liz King in 3,924 days.
Clarissa Adams has not seen her parents Walter and Irmin Huber in 1,792 days.
Carol Nyburg has not seen her daughter Nancy in 2,566 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 3,340 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 2,686 days.
Dylan Gill has not seen his father Russell in 11,252 days.
Melissa Paris has not seen her father Jean-Francois in 7,171 days.
Valeska Paris has not seen her brother Raphael in 3,339 days.
Mirriam Francis has not seen her brother Ben in 2,920 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 3,181 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 2,220 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 1,932 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 1,458 days.
Charley Updegrove has not seen his son Toby in 984 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 5,547 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 2,687 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 3,007 days.
Roger Weller has not seen his daughter Alyssa in 7,863 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 2,982 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 1,337 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 5,640 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 1,746 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis in 2,148 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 2,020 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 1,603 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 2,098 days.
Mary Jane Sterne has not seen her daughter Samantha in 2,352 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 13,461 days.

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Posted by Tony Ortega on August 29, 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

 

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