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Meet the heavy-hitter lawyers Scientology has hired for labor trafficking case

[Oprison and Membiela]

Over the years, we’ve seen some familiar faces defending Scientology in courtrooms around the country. But sometimes, new meat is brought in to represent the church, and that’s the case this time.

On April 28, three Australian former Sea Org workers — Valeska Paris, and Gawain and Laura Baxter — filed a major new lawsuit in Tampa federal court against Scientology, alleging that they’d been forced to work as children and adults, that they’d been subjected to terrible punishments, and that they’d been held against their will. Valeska also alleged that she was sexually abused by male Sea Org workers and she was punished when she dared to complain about it.

The suit names Scientology leader David Miscavige as a defendant, along with five institutional defendants. Judge Thomas Barber acquiesced to a request by the institutional defendants to have until July 12 to respond to the suit. (Miscavige himself has not responded yet; we suspect he will have an attorney file a “special appearance” and object to being part of the case.)

In the meantime, attorneys have begun to identify themselves to the court as Scientology’s hired guns, and they are new to Scientology litigation, as far as we’re aware. (UPDATE: It’s been brought to our attention that Oprison represented RTC in the short-lived and ill-fated lawsuit filed by Jane Doe in Miami in 2019. So it’s not his first time working for David Miscavige.)

Christopher G. Oprison, a partner at DLA Piper in Miami and a former Marine prosecutor, has told the court that he’ll be lead counsel for the Religious Technology Center (RTC). He’s joined by another DLA Piper Miami colleague, Janelly Crespo, to represent RTC.


RTC is the nominally controlling entity of the entire Scientology movement, and its chairman is David Miscavige. This is why Miscavige is referred to as “C.O.B.” by Scientologists, for “chairman of the board.” And we say “nominally” because Miscavige actually controls Scientology through the Sea Org, which has no legal existence. Miscavige is captain of the Sea Org.


Here’s some background on Oprison from the DLA Piper website:

Christopher Oprison is an experienced trial attorney and litigator, handling high profile and high- stakes litigation and appeals. Christopher focuses his practice on white collar criminal defense, healthcare fraud defense, and complex commercial litigation matters. He represents and counsels US and international corporations and individuals in connection with civil and criminal litigation matters, government investigations, healthcare fraud and issues arising under the False Claims Act (FCA), Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), and Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC).

Oprison was also an attorney in the White House under George W. Bush. And for a preview of Oprison in action, we found this footage of him on Fox News discussing the Bowe Bergdahl case.

Also announcing himself this week was Gustavo J. Membiela, who will be representing Church of Scientology International (CSI). CSI is the “mother church” and oversees the every day operations of Scientology’s “orgs.” It is subservient to RTC and Miscavige.

Just this week, Membiela was identified as one of several attorneys who have been named partners in a new expansion of the large national firm Winston & Strawn into Miami.


We’re so used to seeing Scientology use William Forman (CSI) and Matthew Hinks (RTC) for recent lawsuits, it is interesting to see these major new heavy hitters brought in to take on this new lawsuit.

And all three located in Miami, even though the lawsuit was filed in Tampa. We don’t know if this has something to do with the fact that the lawsuit alleges a lot of terrible treatment of Sea Org workers on a ship that plied the Caribbean, the Freewinds. But it does seem that Scientology, and Miscavige, are taking this new lawsuit very, very seriously.



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Source Code

“How about the big boy who becomes the big boy, and he’s been a local boy in some town, and all of a sudden he becomes a big boy. And he’s highly powerful on Wall Street. And he never again speaks to any of his friends in the old home town. Jesus, those people resent that. That is so much the matter of the thing that I can tell you personally that it’s almost impossible to speak to them. That is to say, if you’ve been in an area where you’ve been very well known and you suddenly become, oh, you might say, become a celebrity or something like that, these people won’t believe that you want to talk to them, you see? They’re so used to having the formula violated. You get the idea?” — L. Ron Hubbard, May 25, 1965


Avast, Ye Mateys

“TO ALL ABOARD: (1) Anyone who makes any shuffle, bang, clatter — ANY NOISE — while the Commodore is IN SESSION will get NO AUDITING themselves for 3 months. (2) For FEBC’s — they lose a week’s stats. (3) The Commodore’s Messengers are keeping a list of these people and will turn the list in to D of P as well as a copy for Dir I&R. If one isn’t considerate enough to let the Commodore audit — one doesn’t deserve it himself. (4) If the Port Prom deck is roped off — it is for a PURPOSE — don’t go walking under the rope. IT IS OUT OF BOUNDS! (5) The radio room is OUT OF BOUNDS when LRH is IN SESSION too. (6) If the A & B Deck ladies heads are closed off with a sign saying ‘LRH IN SESSION NO ENTRY’ you don’t walk under the rope — go somewhere else!” — Msm Terri Gillham, Commodore’s Messenger, May 25, 1971



Overheard in the FreeZone

“With Scientology one has a shot at regaining the ability to create or un-create, by one’s own abilities, either one, or any of the myriad and infinite variations of motion of particles across a distance, given and received in the game of communication.”


Past is Prologue

1996: Scientology began a massive campaign of spam this week on alt.religion.scientology. They posted thousands of articles from a variety of accounts, but with the same content, over and over. The articles all began with this paragraph: “Many falsehoods and inaccurate statements regarding several aspects of the religion of Scientology have been observed on ars. The purpose of this message is to give you a sample of the true data from the book ‘What is Scientology?’ and show you where you can look to get the full contents of this book.” The first articles were posted by “Chris Maple” through a remailer at Yale University. Ron Newman reported the response from Yale. “The Yale postmaster has informed me that they have now blocked *all* posting to a.r.s. via their mail-to-news gateway. So please don’t harass the Yale postmasters or administrators. By the way, the postmaster says that there were 886 attempts to send messages to a.r.s. through this gateway during a 28-hour period ending around 4 this morning.”


Random Howdy

“There is plenty room around here for the J&D’s as well as the ‘Herberts’ and if people cross way over the line they usually get their asses straightened out by both sides.”


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

Criminal prosecutions:

Danny Masterson charged for raping three women: Next pretrial conference May 31. Trial scheduled for August 29.
‘Lafayette Ronald Hubbard’ (a/k/a Justin Craig), aggravated assault, plus drug charges: Last hearing was on January 18, referred to grand jury. Additional charges also referred to grand jury after January 5 assault while in jail.
Jay and Jeff Spina, Medicare fraud: Jay sentenced to 9 years in prison. Jeff’s sentencing to be scheduled.
Rizza Islam and other family members, Medi-Cal fraud: Pretrial conference June 9 in Los Angeles
David Gentile, GPB Capital, fraud: Next pretrial conference set for June 2.
Joseph ‘Ben’ Barton, Medicare fraud: Pleaded guilty, awaiting sentencing.
Yanti Mike Greene, Scientology private eye accused of contempt of court: Found guilty of criminal and civil contempt.

Civil litigation:
Baxter, Baxter, and Paris v. Scientology, alleging labor trafficking: Scientology given until July 12 to respond.
Luis and Rocio Garcia v. Scientology: Eleventh Circuit affirmed ruling granting Scientology’s motion for arbitration. Garcias considering next move.
Valerie Haney v. Scientology: Forced to ‘religious arbitration.’ Valerie’s motion for reconsideration denied on March 15.
Chrissie Bixler et al. v. Scientology and Danny Masterson: Appellate court removes requirement of arbitration on January 19, case remanded back to Superior Court. Next hearing scheduled for June 29.
Brian Statler Sr v. City of Inglewood: Third amended complaint filed, trial set for December 6.
Author Steve Cannane defamation trial: New trial ordered after appeals court overturned prior ruling.
Chiropractors Steve Peyroux and Brent Detelich, stem cell fraud: Lawsuit filed by the FTC and state of Georgia in August, now in discovery phase.



We first broke the news of the LAPD’s investigation of Scientology celebrity Danny Masterson on rape allegations in 2017, and we’ve been covering the story every step of the way since then. At this page we’ve collected our most important links, including our four days in Los Angeles covering the preliminary hearing and its ruling, which has Danny facing trial and the potential sentence of 45 years to life in prison.


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.


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 on Netflix.


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

Other links: SCIENTOLOGY BLACK OPS: Tom Cruise and dirty tricks. 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?


[ONE year ago] Is Scientology protecting Danny Masterson or is it protecting itself? A Sea Org perspective.
[TWO years ago] On Memorial Day, Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard’s ‘stolen valor’: His bogus war injuries
[THREE years ago] Behind enemy li(n)es: Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard’s secret mission that never was
[FOUR years ago] Erika Christensen shows off her new Scientology trophy for donating half a million bucks
[FIVE years ago] Our photographer goes back for more Scientology ‘body routing’ on the streets of LA
[SIX years ago] As Scientology prepares for Saturday’s grand opening, its controversial sign goes up
[SEVEN years ago] On Memorial Day, some new revelations from L. Ron Hubbard’s military record
[EIGHT years ago] Scientology Sunday Funnies: Save the date for Maiden Voyage!
[NINE years ago] TMZ The Latest To Mix Up Tiziano Lugli for Tom Cruise
[TEN years ago] VIDEO: Dianetics Day 2012! See People Who Can’t Wait to Go “Clear”!


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 2,675 days.
Katrina Reyes has not seen her mother Yelena in 3,180 days
Sylvia Wagner DeWall has not seen her brother Randy in 2,730 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his grandson Leo in 1,720 days.
Geoff Levin has not seen his son Collin and daughter Savannah in 1,611 days.
Christie Collbran has not seen her mother Liz King in 4,917 days.
Clarissa Adams has not seen her parents Walter and Irmin Huber in 2,786 days.
Carol Nyburg has not seen her daughter Nancy in 3,560 days.
Doug Kramer has not seen his parents Linda and Norm in 1,891 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 4,364 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 3,680 days.
Dylan Gill has not seen his father Russell in 12,246 days.
Melissa Paris has not seen her father Jean-Francois in 8,165 days.
Valeska Paris has not seen her brother Raphael in 4,333 days.
Mirriam Francis has not seen her brother Ben in 3,913 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 4,175 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 3,211 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 2,926 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 2,451 days.
Julian Wain has not seen his brother Joseph or mother Susan in 806 days.
Charley Updegrove has not seen his son Toby in 1,981 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 6,532 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 3,681 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 4,001 days.
Roger Weller has not seen his daughter Alyssa in 8,856 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 3,975 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 2,331 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 6,634 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 2,740 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis in 3,138 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 3,014 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 2,597 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 3,092 days.
Mary Jane Barry has not seen her daughter Samantha in 3,346 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 14,455 days.


Posted by Tony Ortega on May 25, 2022 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, 1995-2021 Just starting out here? We’ve picked out the most important stories we’ve covered here at the Underground Bunker (2012-2021), 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, 15 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


Tony Ortega at The Daily Beast


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