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Scientologists facing felonies try ‘sovereign citizen’ gambit in tense L. A. court hearing

[Rizza Islam and his mother, Hanan]

Almost four years ago we broke the story here at the Underground Bunker of a wild criminal case developing in Los Angeles. A woman named Hanan Islam and three of her children and others were arrested and faced felony charges for running a multi-million dollar scam involving a jackleg Scientology drug rehab clinic in Compton, a working class suburb.

According to the indictments filed by state investigators, Hanan and the other defendants defrauded the state Medi-Cal insurance program with a scheme that involved shuttling unwitting high school students to the Scientology clinic for drug addiction treatments they didn’t need so Medi-Cal could be fraudulently billed.

The state’s investigation not only resulted in felony charges for Islam and her children, but three African-American educators — two high school principals and the head coach of the legendary Dominguez High School football program — also faced charges and lost their jobs, accused of supplying the students to the Islams for their scheme.

Since those charges were first filed in 2015, the criminal case against Hanan Islam, 60, her daughters Zakiyyah (37) and Nimat (42) and her son Ronnie (29), and a clinic employee, Bayon Beverly Washington (46), has moved glacially through the Los Angeles Superior Court. (Another defendant, George Edward Newby III, 47, pleaded to a lesser charge, as did two of the educators. The third did not face prosecution.)

Ronnie is better known as “Rizza” Islam, and we’ve watched how, even after being charged with two felony counts, he’s pursued higher visibility as both a Scientologist and member of the Nation of Islam, taking his anti-vaccination agenda to small media outlets, and, most recently, to the California state capital.


The unexpected death of Rizza’s Scientologist defense attorney last year was one of the many ways that the case was delayed. Then, earlier this year, defense attorneys asked for another delay because Rizza’s mother, Hanan, was on death’s door after a cancer diagnosis. Attorneys for Hanan’s children argued that the case should be dropped if Hanan died, and Judge Michael Tynan put the matter on hold for a few weeks, apparently to wait for Hanan’s imminent demise. (In the meantime, Hanan continued to offer non-medical cancer cures online.)

But then a photo turned up showing Hanan and her son at the premiere of a film he had something to do with, and she did not appear in extremis.


After more delays and continuances, all five of the defendants were back in Judge Tynan’s court yesterday, and they did not like what he did next.

Judge Tynan ordered the case moved upstairs to the 9th floor and the courtroom of Judge Michael Pastor for the long-delayed preliminary hearing to take place.

The defendants were apparently aware of the reputation of the courts of the 9th floor and Pastor in particular, who is known as a no-nonsense adjudicator who becomes thoroughly versed in complex cases and moves them along without delay.

The defendants were so upset to hear that their case had been moved upstairs, they deserted the courtroom en masse.

Judge Tynan said he would swear out warrants and revoke bail for the defendants if they didn’t immediately make their way to Pastor’s courtroom.

After their attorneys explained the situation to them, the defendants did go to Pastor’s courtroom on the 9th floor, but then they tried something truly bizarre.

Hanan and Rizza Islam claimed not to be the people the courts called “Hanan Islam” and “Rizza Islam.”

Those readers familiar with the odd court-clogging ways of “sovereign citizens” will probably recognize what the Islams were attempting to do.

We’ve written at some length about the sovereign citizen phenomena and how it has increasingly spread to the African-American community in recent years. Drawing on delusional conspiracy theories, sovereign citizens claim that they aren’t subject to US laws for bizarre reasons. Some of them have developed the idea that slight changes in the spellings of their name, for example, bestow some kind of legal loophole that can get them out of paying taxes, having to get licenses to operate a car, or to avoid criminal prosecution.


This was the gambit tried by the Islams, who claimed that the court was prosecuting fictional corporate entities that were separate from their “natural” selves, and so they should be able to walk away.

It was a tense atmosphere in the courtroom, and some trouble had apparently been anticipated as ten L.A. Sheriff’s deputies were on hand for the hearing.

Judge Pastor wasn’t amused. At one point he asked Ms. Islam if she had flown anywhere on airplanes in recent years. When she said that she had, he pointed out that she would have had to present personal identification to board the airplane. She responded that those documents spelled her name in all capitals, and that it didn’t represent her natural person.

But Pastor is no pushover. He announced that the remedy for this supposed identification mix-up would be to take the defendants into custody until their identities could be worked out.

At that point, the defense attorneys counseled their clients to drop the nonsense. When both the prosecutors and defense attorneys said they had no issue with the identities of the defendants, Judge Pastor moved on, saying that the preliminary hearing would take place Thursday morning at 10:30 am. If the defendants didn’t show up, he said, warrants would be sworn out for their arrest.

We just want to point out one more thing about this fascinating moment in court. This is a case that involves what was a notorious and shady operation for years in Compton known as the World Literacy Project, a Scientology front group that was involved in numerous scandals before it was shut down. It is also a case that ended the careers of three prominent African-American educators in the Los Angeles area, and that involved the use of children — unwitting high school students — to rip off about $3 million from the state of California. It also involves members of both the Church of Scientology and the Nation of Islam, and a woman, Hanan Islam, who has a long history of felony charges and questionable scams.

And yet, despite all of that, in the nearly four years since this story broke, there is yet to be a single word about the felony charges or the elaborate scam in the pages of the Los Angeles Times. We can’t help wondering if the Times had cared to cover this case whether it would have dragged on so long without a resolution.

As fascinating as yesterday’s court hearing was, no LA Times reporter attended.

Thursday promises to be an explosive day at the Los Angeles Superior Court. Will the LA Times bother to show up?


Bonus items from our tipsters

Meanwhile, in Canada…



Source Code

“The fellow wants to get out of the woods and there are two trails. And one trail lies much deeper into the woods and the other trail goes out on to the plain. And all you have to do is put up a sign at the crossroads and point to that trail which goes deeper into the woods and say, ‘This way lies freedom,’ you see, and you’ve promptly trapped a lot of people.” — L. Ron Hubbard, September 18, 1963


Overheard in the FreeZone

“If you do the bridge your not going to be told about secret weather control programs, about vaccines brain damaging people, about the secret space program, about secret depopulation programs (programs run to kill us), about underground bases being built by the new world order in case of a cataclysm (they have literally built underground towns with all this advanced tech) and they fly around in UFOs which they keep secret from us, i mean there is just so much going on that we are not told about in scientology or in mainstream life, but at least scientology makes us smarter so that then we can investigate and find out about all these things.”


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] Giving Scientology TV a run for its money — it’s the premiere of the Bunker network!
[TWO years ago] Moss wins Emmy for portraying totalitarian cult victim and doesn’t care what you think about it
[THREE years ago] In the wake of raids, Scientology’s sneaky consulting front shrinks markedly in Russia
[FOUR years ago] Scientology about to throw its Harlem party — and we need your eyes and ears!
[FIVE years ago] RATHBUN SUIT: Scientology’s last swipe in its anti-SLAPP appeal before hearing next week
[SIX years ago] Scientology’s “Bridge:” Claire Headley Gets Us to CLEAR!


Scientology disconnection, a reminder

Bernie Headley has not seen his daughter Stephanie in 5,571 days.
Valerie Haney has not seen her mother Lynne in 1,700 days.
Katrina Reyes has not seen her mother Yelena in 2,204 days
Sylvia Wagner DeWall has not seen her brother Randy in 1,724 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his grandson Leo in 744 days.
Geoff Levin has not seen his son Collin and daughter Savannah in 635 days.
Christie Collbran has not seen her mother Liz King in 3,942 days.
Clarissa Adams has not seen her parents Walter and Irmin Huber in 1,810 days.
Carol Nyburg has not seen her daughter Nancy in 2,584 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 3,358 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 2,704 days.
Dylan Gill has not seen his father Russell in 11,270 days.
Melissa Paris has not seen her father Jean-Francois in 7,189 days.
Valeska Paris has not seen her brother Raphael in 3,357 days.
Mirriam Francis has not seen her brother Ben in 2,938 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 3,199 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 2,238 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 1,950 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 1,476 days.
Charley Updegrove has not seen his son Toby in 1,002 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 5,565 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 2,705 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 3,025 days.
Roger Weller has not seen his daughter Alyssa in 7,881 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 3,000 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 1,355 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 5,658 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 1,764 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis in 2,166 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 2,038 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 1,621 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 2,116 days.
Mary Jane Barry has not seen her daughter Samantha in 2,370 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 13,479 days.


Posted by Tony Ortega on September 18, 2019 at 07:00

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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, 14 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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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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