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


Henning Heldt, 1945-2020: Scientology’s 1970s spymaster went to prison for L. Ron Hubbard

The Underground Bunker has learned that 1970s Scientology spymaster Henning Heldt, the target of one of the largest raids in FBI history, died Sunday of cancer. He was 74.

When the FBI raided Scientology on July 8, 1977 in Washington DC and Los Angeles, one of its main targets was Henning Heldt’s office on the sixth floor of Fifield Manor, the building that so many Los Angeles 101 Freeway drivers today know as the Hollywood Celebrity Centre.

Heldt was the target because the FBI’s witness, former Scientology spy Michael Meisner, told them that it was in Heldt’s office that key evidence of Scientology’s years-long infiltration of US federal government offices, and the theft of thousands of sensitive documents, would be found.

Heldt was “Deputy Guardian US,” which had him overseeing a vast network of Scientology spies and infiltrators who had gotten jobs or broken in to hundreds of government agencies in what the organization called its “Snow White Program” (subsequently dubbed “Operation Snow White” by the press). The program had been dreamed up by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard in 1973 while he was hiding out in an apartment in Queens, New York between voyages on his ship Apollo, from which he ran his empire from 1967 to 1975. Hubbard was frustrated that his yacht had fewer and fewer ports in the Mediterranean and Atlantic where it was welcome, and he blamed US and UK government agencies for sending out negative information about him and Scientology to foreign governments.


In Snow White, Hubbard ordered that his Guardian’s Office — Scientology’s intelligence operation, which had begun operations in 1966 — get its hands on those documents in American and British files in order to neutralize them. The program was overseen by his wife, Mary Sue Hubbard; his top spymaster in England, a woman named Jane Kember; and the top Guardian’s Office official in the US, Heldt.

After the raid, when the sheer volume of material taken from Scientology showed a stunning litany of complex operations of subterfuge and sabotage of people and governments the church opposed, Heldt remained defiant. “You know, the guys who have done the most are the ones who have taken the most heat — Martin Luther King and so on,” he told People magazine in 1978.

Although L. Ron Hubbard had dreamed up the operation and had remained in control of it from a distance, he was only named an unindicted co-conspirator by the Justice Department and did not face trial.

But Heldt and eight other defendants — including Mary Sue Hubbard — decided to plead guilty to a charge of conspiracy to avoid a lengthy trial and more serious charges. (Two more defendants were extradited from England and were also convicted, bringing to 11 the total number of Scientologists who were convicted.) Heldt was sentenced to four years in prison and fined $10,000.

After he served his sentence, he remained a Scientologist, but the Guardian’s Office had been disbanded and was replaced by the “Office of Special Affairs” as the church tried to recover from the debacle.

But investigations was apparently still in his makeup, so Heldt went to work for David Morse & Associates, a private investigation firm that today goes by DMA Claims, Inc., and that became somewhat notorious for being a landing spot for former Guardian’s Office operatives.

Heldt remained at DMA the rest of his life, and is still listed as a senior vice president.

According to a personal website, he was originally from Arizona and graduated in 1967 from Cornell University with a bachelor’s degree in fine arts. He continued to pursue painting and sculpture and considered himself an artist.

But it’s his control of a massive, sophisticated spy operation that pulled off what was the largest infiltration of the US government in its history that he’ll chiefly be remembered for.

We asked British historian Chris Owen for more detail about Heldt’s long list of Scientology dirty tricks and subterfuge, and he did not disappoint…

Heldt was virtually a lifelong Scientologist, having joined the church as a young man. By 1970, he was a member of the Guardian’s Office. He rose rapidly to become the GO’s Deputy Guardian US, a position in which he oversaw the GO’s intense campaign of espionage, harassment, and lawsuits against a range of foes in the US, Canada, and Mexico during the 1960s and 1970s. He was still only in his late 20s and early 30s at this time, but he was both a fanatical Scientologist and a highly effective administrator.

He was deeply involved in the notorious campaign against New York author and Scientology critic Paulette Cooper and almost certainly authorised the infamous Operation Freakout. He also masterminded Scientology’s campaign against the American Medical Association, which included Operation Sore Throat — a successful bid to infiltrate the AMA and leak its sensitive internal documents to the press. Delighted by the results, he awarded bonuses to the GO staff responsible for the operation: “For $545 [in awards],” wrote Heldt, “they cost the AMA at least $250,000.”

Heldt was also a key figure in Scientology’s campaign against the IRS and other US government agencies. As vice-president of the Church of Scientology of California, he was in charge of the church’s books and records — and so organised a systematic campaign of obstruction of the IRS — while in his role as Deputy Guardian US he ordered numerous espionage operations against the government.

He carried out Mary Sue Hubbard’s orders to “use any method at our disposal to win the battle and gain our non-profit status,” overseeing a years-long campaign — separate from the Snow White Program mentioned above — to infiltrate and steal from the IRS. He almost certainly ordered Operation Juicy Clanger, under which Scientology operatives stole the tax records of celebrities including Frank Sinatra, Doris Day, and John Wayne. Equally audaciously, he ordered the 1975 “Safe US” plan to infiltrate the Department of Justice, district attorneys, and state attorneys general across the US, to obtain intelligence of any planned action against Scientology.


In Clearwater, Heldt was a key figure in Scientology’s campaign to take over the city following its arrival there in 1975. He initiated an operation to try to seize control of the Clearwater Sun newspaper and ordered the GO to create a “Watergate setup” against the Clearwater Police Department, as a first step in what was intended to be a campaign against police departments nationwide. Probably as part of the operation, the GO attempted to infiltrate the local telephone company and police communications center so that it could monitor police and local government communications in Clearwater.

Heldt was closely involved in the cover-up that followed the May 1976 exposure of GO operative Michael Meisner for trying to burgle the US Federal Courthouse in Washington, DC. The Meisner affair proved to be Heldt’s downfall and led to his arrest and indictment on conspiracy charges. He initially justified himself on the grounds that he and his colleagues were reacting to government attempts to “destroy their religion and make a mockery of their beliefs.” “This is the largest concentrated attempt to eradicate a church since the holocaust of Nazi Germany!” he told journalists at a 1978 news conference.

Heldt changed his tune when he was convicted, but despite offering contrition — “I broke the law and I will not do so again” — he refused to give testimony in the subsequent trial of his superiors, Jane Kember and Mo Budlong, and was convicted again of criminal contempt. He remained dedicated to protecting the legacy of L. Ron Hubbard for the rest of his life and took the secrets of Hubbard’s own crimes with him to the grave.

Historian Jon Atack also added that Heldt not only kept Hubbard’s secrets, but made sure he was back in the good graces of the church after his prison stay.

“A 2006 issue of Impact magazine listed Heldt as a Patron [requiring a donation of at least $50,000] as had earlier issues listed Mary Sue Hubbard and Jane Kember. So they had all done their ‘A-E’s and been accepted back as members of the IAS after making a set donation. This payment will in turn have been part of their liability formulas in that A-E,” he points out.


Scientology in Hollywood, the wristband!

We knew Scientology had lost influence in Hollywood, but this is something else. From the wrist of actress Tama Léia…



Source Code

“There is nothing more simple than for a fellow to duplicate himself any place in the universe because he isn’t any place in the universe because he is every place in the universe. Any one of you immediately, any one of you immediately answers up to the definition that has been given the anthropomorphic itself entitled God. Any one of you, because you’re everywhere on omniscient and omnipresent, and on the bus, and everything.” — L. Ron Hubbard, January 7, 1954


Overheard in the FreeZone

“If people think Jesus is God, (he is, but who isn’t), is he the only God? If you want to go the shortest most direct route to God itself, then contact your higher self. There is no route shorter or more direct. But this golden ball is a creation of God that is outside this physical universe, that is YOU. If you contact the golden ball, that is not you, that is a creation of you that is more or less the eyes of YOU, (the you is the you outside of the physical MEST universe). That creation of you has been heavily damaged and filled with endless millennium of lies, misinterpreted painful experiences hidden to the body itself, disinformation, implants of other entities who are not you and histories that are not you to keep you so disoriented you can never find out who you are. If you want to go direct to source, contact the YOU that is outside this physical MEST universe.”


Random Howdy

“Phew, I’m just getting back after sitting in the alley for 2 hours with the cats after some asshole in the building tried to set some other guy’s door on fire. The firemen said we were very lucky the ornament that the asshole tried to start the fire with went out otherwise we would have all been toast. Isn’t life grand?”


Start making your plans…

Head over to the convention website and meet us in St. Louis!


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

[The Big Three: Tom Cruise, John Travolta, and Kirstie Alley]

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] A Scientologist on trial for double murder: A story the church is very nervous about
[TWO years ago] When two political longshots spar over Joy Villa and Scientology, everyone wins
[THREE years ago] Phil and Willie Jones launch a new effort for billboard about Scientology disconnection
[FOUR years ago] AUDIO: Hear Scientology boast about the $5.7 million it got from Google in free ads
[FIVE years ago] The new Scientology ad running on TV — and maybe for the Super Bowl
[SIX years ago] See Scientology’s new TV ad before it’s released — and more IAS gala video!
[SEVEN years ago] John Sweeney Talks The Church of Fear, Which Comes Out Today


Scientology disconnection, a reminder

Bernie Headley (1952-2019) did not see his daughter Stephanie in his final 5,667 days.
Valerie Haney has not seen her mother Lynne in 1,810 days.
Katrina Reyes has not seen her mother Yelena in 2,314 days
Sylvia Wagner DeWall has not seen her brother Randy in 1,834 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his grandson Leo in 854 days.
Geoff Levin has not seen his son Collin and daughter Savannah in 745 days.
Christie Collbran has not seen her mother Liz King in 4,052 days.
Clarissa Adams has not seen her parents Walter and Irmin Huber in 1,920 days.
Carol Nyburg has not seen her daughter Nancy in 2,694 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 3,468 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 2,814 days.
Dylan Gill has not seen his father Russell in 11,380 days.
Melissa Paris has not seen her father Jean-Francois in 7,299 days.
Valeska Paris has not seen her brother Raphael in 3,467 days.
Mirriam Francis has not seen her brother Ben in 3,048 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 3,309 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 2,347 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 2,060 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 1,585 days.
Charley Updegrove has not seen his son Toby in 1,112 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 5,675 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 2,815 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 3,135 days.
Roger Weller has not seen his daughter Alyssa in 7,991 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 3,110 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 1,465 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 5,768 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 1,874 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis in 2,276 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 2,148 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 1,731 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 2,226 days.
Mary Jane Barry has not seen her daughter Samantha in 2,480 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 13,589 days.


Posted by Tony Ortega on January 7, 2020 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, 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

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