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Trouble in the Scientology FreeZone! Even ‘Indies’ are suing each other

[An AOGP image representing Scientology’s Bridge to Total Freedom]

Since we started it more than a year ago, our “Overheard in the FreeZone” feature has become one of the most popular daily sources of commentary here at the Underground Bunker.

We have explained before that we appreciate the way that independent Scientologists — who for the most part are people who have left the Church of Scientology but continue to pursue independently the practices described by founder L. Ron Hubbard — are freer to discuss the subject than their counterparts still in the church.

In order to keep up on what “indies” are talking about, we browse numerous gathering places on the Internet to see what the latest wins and beefs are. (And there are a lot of beefs.)

One thing you can’t escape if you frequent the FreeZone are the slick ads put out by a man named Jonathan Burke for what he calls the “Advanced Organization of the Great Plains,” which he founded in 2011. Based in Kansas City, Burke is an auditor who, like other independents, seeks to make a living by practicing Scientology on his own.

And because he offers some of the more elevated auditing experiences on Scientology’s “Bridge,” he calls his operation an “Advanced Organization,” the way that the church itself refers to its high-level auditing factories in Los Angeles, Sydney, Copenhagen, and Florida.

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And Burke certainly tries harder than his fellow indie auditors in the marketing department. Here are a couple of the sort of sample items he posts with regularity in various Indie locations…

 

 
Burke even found a bricks-and-mortar location for the AO-GP, and he seemed to be prospering. But, as is typical in the FreeZone, he was also the target of a lot of rumormongering and backbiting. Such is life as an indie proprietor, we suppose.

Then, recently, we saw a couple of references online to Burke losing a rather sizable court judgment to another indie, and we couldn’t help being curious about it. The references online were pretty cryptic, but we knew that Burke and the AO-GP were in Kansas City, so we went to the Jackson County, Missouri court website and very quickly hit paydirt: On September 23, Burke signed a consent judgment, agreeing to pay a couple $46,080 plus court costs.

Curious to find out what this was about, we contacted the court and requested a copy of the lawsuit. It showed that Burke had been sued by William and Mary Blackford, also of Kansas City, who said they had loaned Burke $40,000 and he had failed to pay it back.

We reached out to Mary, whose name we had seen in the past at ex-Scientologist Facebook locations.

She had lots to say.

The Bunker: We got a copy of the complaint, but it doesn’t really say anything except that you loaned Burke $40,000 at 15 percent interest and he wasn’t paying. But can you tell us why you were loaning him money?

Mary Blackford: Well, of course, this is about the biggest example of stupid in the universe, and we are embarrassed to have been All Kinds of Stupid (just so you know we’re embarrassed). I’d known Burke on Facebook for eight years and I considered us friends. In late August 2019, I had been working part time as the HES (Hubbard Executive Secretary) for the org. My husband and I had received upper-level NOTs repairs and auditing from him in the previous five months. Burke said the org was in a financial bind, and asked to borrow $40,000. He said that if he couldn’t get the loan, “there would be no org.” We had just moved from California, sold our house there, Bill had a new job in the area, I had a part-time job teaching writing and English at a community college, and we were flush. In retrospect, Burke had been “grooming” both of us (my husband and me) by asking for small loans in those past four to five months and paying us back immediately: $200 here, $300 there. Then when the org was getting physically established, he asked for temporary financial help getting furniture ($350), an infrared sauna ($1,300 from Bill), pay for some shipping on some “free, donated” books that arrived unexpectedly ($1,700 in shipping from me). I have receipts for it all. Bill and I were each told not to tell the other about the larger “loans,” and Jonathan always said he’d “pay us back as soon as he could” and that basically prosperity was just around the corner. Never happened, though. When he asked for that huge amount, we kind of trusted him. Bill and I talked this massive loan over without Jonathan present. You have to know that Burke is charismatic, persuasive, and talks a really good game. He knows his marks well, too. We did want the org to continue and expand and of course we wanted to help. Jonathan offered to sign a note (the only thing that saved our asses in court), offered us 15 percent interest, and also promised to do Bill’s L’s in return. He really made repayment seem generous. The loan was due on April 30. We thought it was doable for Burke. Bill figured we had a 50/50 chance of him repaying us. I told Bill that we didn’t have to do the loan, but Bill made the final call. So we agreed to loan him the money. Little did we know that Jonathan Burke has similar unrepaid loans with half a dozen other people before us. Since then, a lot more loans and undelivered services have come to light; the depth and breadth of Burke’s grift is breathtaking.

The Bunker: And how did he come up with the money to pay you back?

Mary: He hasn’t paid us a cent yet. I’m working on getting his bank accounts garnished (tough when you don’t know where he banks) because he has no regular taxable work. He gets paid under the table. He’s raking in money from PCs, though. He closed the doors to the on-ground org in June. It’s all online now.

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The Bunker: Are you and your husband still paying for auditing now, with someone else?

Mary: My husband is “done with Scientology.” And Burke. I pushed this lawsuit along and am working to get his accounts garnished. I want justice. I felt so awful after the whole thing with Burke that I did pay for auditing with someone from whom I’d been receiving auditing before JB lured me away. It was worth the extra cost; I feel fine, and I’m all about getting justice done and stopping this guy from abusing anyone else.

We reached out to Burke for a comment on the judgment. He said he or his attorney would get back to us, and then he sent us this note:

Hi Tony,

The debt is a private personal one with Bill Blackford and myself, not his wife who was on staff as a volunteer only until her self determined and unplanned departure. The organization’s LLC is not part of the debt, which can be seen in the court documents and will be paid back over time once normalcy returns. Any statements not to that effect are mischaracterizations by Mrs Blackford. A payment settlement was offered, and ignored, It was offered due to the effects of the virus on life in general.

Our organization was before and is online now only until six foot social distancing regulations are not de rigueur, as are millions of other business implementing as a solution to the problem. Delivery continues normally for our public and has never missed a beat in our online courseroom since this all started in March.

We really appreciate and admire your continued efforts to expose the COS’s abuses and admire you greatly for your ongoing efforts to make them known and prosecuted for.

Thank you for all you do.

Sincerely,
Jonathan Burke
And Lisa Kemsley
AOGP CO-Exec. Directors

We shared that response with Mary, who pointed out that the lawsuit was in her name as well her husband’s, and so it made no sense to call it a “private personal” debt with Bill Blackford alone.

As for the settlement that was offered he refers to, “He offered us $500 per month for five months, and the balance over 12 months, via attorney. We rejected that offer, because if we had signed that, we’d still never have seen a penny. (It wouldn’t have seen the court’s involvement, so he would never have paid),” Mary said.

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Mary pointed out that lawsuits among indies is rare, but that she felt the church’s abuses were being perpetrated in this case. She shared with us an extremely detailed document she had put together, a Doubt Formula, recording the irregularities she had witnessed at the AO-GP.

We appreciated her candor, and we wish her luck as she continues to pursue justice in this case. And we hope Mr. Burke can find a way to pay the debt and that he perhaps reflects on whether Mr. Hubbard’s “technology” is as efficacious as he promotes, since it has failed so spectacularly for the Advanced Organization of the Great Plains.

 
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Leah Remini podcast: Lloyd Evans

Says Mike Rinder: “It’s always a pleasure to speak with Lloyd Evans. He is so knowledgeable, articulate and even-keeled. He helped us put together the Jehovah’s Witness special on The Aftermath, and is a valued supporter of our efforts to expose the abuses in scientology, while he carries out his work doing the same with the Jehovah’s Witnesses.”

Listen to this week’s podcast here…

 

 
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Source Code

“Every man there is, is a universe. You talk about God: The most you will know about God for probably a long time to come is you. If you want to know what God is all about, or if you want to know what you’re all about, you want to know what the fourth dynamic is all about, you consult the essential elements of ‘you-ness.’ Not buried, unconscious, submotivated, libido-icated, bypassed symbolizations of the left hind ruddy rod, which we therefore graph and say, ‘It’s all mysterious and you can’t understand you, so therefore we can own you.’ We’re not running that operation.” — L. Ron Hubbard, November 10, 1952

 

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Overheard in the FreeZone

“We have very good results with Skype processing. There are cases who work better by Skype, there are other cases which prefer processing in person. Wins of a PC is the only criteria of results of processing. What is really bad is when one person starts to make another person wrong for delivery processing, using Skype or not. And this is a real suppression. Skype processing formally is a substitute at havingness scale. It is not too low at this scale. And it WORKS good for many, many, many PCs.”

 
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Past is Prologue

2002: The St. Petersburg Times reported that three people were arrested for attempting to take a Scientologist to the doctor by force. “A man was arrested Tuesday and accused of enlisting two friends to help him tie up his wife so he could take her to the doctor. Largo police arrested Terry Ray Hemphill, 54, on charges of felony false imprisonment and misdemeanor domestic battery. Jamie J. Popa, 33, and Laurie Lynn Miller, 32, also were arrested on false imprisonment charges.”

 
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Random Howdy

“Past life Scientologists have to do the Basics all over again just like everybody else. Fair is fair, ya know?”

 
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Full Court Press: What we’re watching at the Underground Bunker

Criminal prosecutions:
Danny Masterson charged for raping three women: Masterson’s demurrer denied Oct 19, arraignment delayed to Jan 6.
Jay and Jeff Spina, Medicare fraud: Jay’s sentencing delayed for ‘Fatico’ hearing in January.
Hanan and Rizza Islam and other family members, Medi-Cal fraud: Next pretrial conference set for Jan 12 in Los Angeles

Civil litigation:
Luis and Rocio Garcia v. Scientology: Oral arguments were heard on July 30 at the Eleventh Circuit
Valerie Haney v. Scientology: Forced to ‘religious arbitration.’ Petition for a writ of mandate denied Oct 22 by Cal 2nd Appellate District.
Chrissie Bixler et al. v. Scientology and Danny Masterson: Nov 6, motions to compel arbitration, awaiting ruling; Jan 29, Masterson’s request to stay discovery pending the criminal case
Matt and Kathy Feschbach tax debt: Eleventh Circuit ruled on Sept 9 that Feshbachs can’t discharge IRS debt in bankruptcy. Oct 19: Feshbachs still considering further appellate relief.
Brian Statler Sr v. City of Inglewood: Second amended complaint filed, trial set for Nov 9, 2021.
Author Steve Cannane defamation trial: Trial concluded, awaiting verdict.

Concluded litigation:
Dennis Nobbe, Medicare fraud, PPP loan fraud: Charged July 29. Bond revoked Sep 14. Nobbe dead, Sep 14.
Jane Doe v. Scientology (in Miami): Jane Doe dismissed the lawsuit on May 15 after the Clearwater Police dropped their criminal investigation of her allegations.

 
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SCIENTOLOGY BLACK OPS: Tom Cruise and dirty tricks

The Australian Seven News network cancelled a 10-part investigation of Scientology and its history of dirty tricks. Read the transcripts of the episodes and judge for yourself why Tom Cruise and Tommy Davis might not have wanted viewers to see this hard-hitting series by journalist Bryan Seymour.

SCIENTOLOGY: FAIR GAME

After the success of their double-Emmy-winning, three-season A&E series ‘Scientology and the Aftermath,’ Leah Remini and Mike Rinder continue the conversation on their podcast, ‘Scientology: Fair Game.’ We’ve created a landing page where you can hear all of the episodes so far.

LEAH REMINI: SCIENTOLOGY AND THE AFTERMATH

An episode-by-episode guide to Leah Remini’s three-season, double-Emmy winning series that changed everything for Scientology watching. Originally aired from 2016 to 2019 on the A&E network, and now at Netflix.

SCIENTOLOGY’S CELEBRITIES, from A to Z

Find your favorite Hubbardite celeb at this index page — or suggest someone to add to the list!

 
Other links: Scientology’s Ideal Orgs, from one end of the planet to the other. 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 a weekly series. How many have you read?

 
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THE WHOLE TRACK

[ONE year ago] Scientology promotes its expensive propaganda TV channel one flier at a time
[TWO years ago] Bent Corydon on Scientology’s Sunday night massacre: ‘We all clapped at the right places’
[THREE years ago] If Trump is serious, he has a clear path to go at Scientology — through his Treasury Secretary
[FOUR years ago] L. Ron Hubbard on the run: When the Daily Mail was hounding Scientology’s founder in ’66
[FIVE years ago] Narconon is dead, long live Narconon! How Scientology solved its drug rehab addiction
[SIX years ago] Ryan Hamilton’s next move: Consolidating his Narconon litigation into one big case
[SEVEN years ago] Scientology Attacks Garcia Filing; Marc Headley Schools Clearwater’s Mayor
[EIGHT years ago] A Scientology Knockoff That Considers Children ‘Sexy’? Great Xenu’s Ghost!
[NINE years ago] Scientology Thursday Stats: This Week’s Roundup!

 
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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 2,116 days.
Katrina Reyes has not seen her mother Yelena in 2,620 days
Sylvia Wagner DeWall has not seen her brother Randy in 2,140 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his grandson Leo in 1,160 days.
Geoff Levin has not seen his son Collin and daughter Savannah in 1,051 days.
Christie Collbran has not seen her mother Liz King in 4,358 days.
Clarissa Adams has not seen her parents Walter and Irmin Huber in 2,226 days.
Carol Nyburg has not seen her daughter Nancy in 3,000 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 3,804 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 3,120 days.
Dylan Gill has not seen his father Russell in 11,686 days.
Melissa Paris has not seen her father Jean-Francois in 7,605 days.
Valeska Paris has not seen her brother Raphael in 3,773 days.
Mirriam Francis has not seen her brother Ben in 3,354 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 3,615 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 2,653 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 2,366 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 1,891 days.
Charley Updegrove has not seen his son Toby in 1,421 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 5,972 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 3,121 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 3,441 days.
Roger Weller has not seen his daughter Alyssa in 8,296 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 3,415 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 1,771 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 6,074 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 2,180 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis in 2,582 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 2,454 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 2,037 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 2,532 days.
Mary Jane Barry has not seen her daughter Samantha in 2,786 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 13,895 days.

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Posted by Tony Ortega on November 9, 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, 1995-2019 Just starting out here? We’ve picked out the most important stories we’ve covered here at the Underground Bunker (2012-2019), 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

 

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