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The nice Scientologist who was caught writing code for ransomware scammers

[Alla Witte]

We recently became aware of a rather strange situation and we’re not sure what to think about it. But we thought we’d just lay it out and give our commenters a chance to discuss it.

Last year, a number of stories appeared at news organizations and websites that cover the murky world of international hacking cartels. They reported the surprising news that an arrest had been made of someone involved in one of the most notorious of those online gangs, the “Trickbot” cartel.

Growing out of an earlier gang in Russia, the Trickbot Group used sophisticated malware and ransomware that the gang used to infect and cripple computer networks at places like schools, country clubs, and other businesses, culling those networks for bank information and demanding cash ransoms.

It was a lucrative enterprise, with the Trickbot gang estimated to have been pulling in hundreds of millions of dollars from victims around the country and around the world.

And now, to the surprise of the security media, a 55-year old woman had been arrested in Miami and was transferred to Cleveland while she awaits trial.


Her name is Alla Witte, she is originally from Russia and is now a Latvian national, and she had been living in Suriname for several years before she made an unwise trip to Miami, where she was apprehended.

The thought that the hacker stealing your passwords and disabling whole networks at schools and golf courses was a mild-mannered woman who looked like someone’s aunt or grandmother was obviously rather astonishing to the reporters covering the story.

“By every account, even from cybercriminals themselves, she’s just a nice human being,” wrote one security expert, who likened her to the gang’s receptionist, who had got caught because she was making simple security mistakes.

She’s now facing decades in prison, and according to a 61-page federal indictment, she was well aware of what she was doing for the Trickbot gang, developing web applications for the burglars that would make it easier for them to work their enterprise…

WITTE provided code to the Trickbot Group for a web panel used to access victim data stored in a database. The database contained a large number of credit card numbers and stolen credentials from the Trickbot botnet. This database also included a repository of information about infected machines available as bots. WITTE provided code to this repository that showed an infected computer or ‘bot’ status in different colors based on the colors of a traffic light and allowed other Trickbot Group members to know when their co-conspirators were working on a particular infected machme. On or about January 14, 2020, WITTE conducted internet searches for “laravel faker bitcoin address,” a reference to creating a fake Bitcoin address to use to test the ransomware payment system.

And from the Department of Justice’s press release about her arrest…

Witte worked as a malware developer for the Trickbot Group and wrote code related to the control, deployment, and payments of ransomware. The ransomware informed victims that their computer was encrypted, and that they would need to purchase special software through a Bitcoin address controlled by the Trickbot Group to decrypt their files. In addition, Witte allegedly provided code to the Trickbot Group that monitored and tracked authorized users of the malware and developed tools and protocols to store stolen login credentials.

She’s facing decades in prison if she’s convicted.

However, although numerous stories about Witte showed up in the security press, none of them mentioned that she had been a longtime Scientology Sea Org worker, and then had spent years as an “independent Scientologist” in a Europe-based network known as “Ron’s Org.”

We learned that because a few days ago, an interesting email was forwarded to us, put out by Ron’s Org leader Max Hauri, who appealed to his fellow independent Scientologists to raise money to bail out and support Witte while she’s waiting for trial.

From the beginnings of the Scientology movement in the early 1950s, there have always been fans of L. Ron Hubbard’s ideas who have split away from the official Church of Scientology in order to practice Scientology on their own. Variously known as “independents” or the “Freezone” and by other names of small groups and associations, there are about as many interpretations of Hubbard’s ideas in these groups as there are individuals. (And that’s something we’ve kept an eye on with our daily “Overheard in the Freezone” feature.)

But this is one of the more unusual things we’ve seen come out of the independent field. Here’s the bulk of Hauri’s letter, after a brief introduction of the situation…

Suriname is rather a poor country and it is difficult to make a living there esp. when you want to do the Bridge. Traveling to Europe already is expensive for them. Alla tried to make her living with programming and she unknowingly and unaware connected with the wrong people who hired her and she was programming some codes for a bigger program she didn’t knew what it was. So far an innocent job.

However this “company” was a criminal one and Alla was not aware what she was doing and hence an easy prey for the FBI. I have added a friend lawyer and he and I still don’t understand with what trick she was on 2 February 2021 brought to Miami where she got arrested for jail. Month waiting for the trial she was brought to Cleveland, Ohio, has been there in different jails and is still waiting for the trail. She has a public defender who told her the trial will be autumn 2021 but because of Corona and because of this and that nothing happened since.


From at least two people who got involved in to the case (one is my friend lawyer and is helping Alla a lot, all for free!) said she is having a good chance to get released on bail, and that she was on “the wrong time at the wrong place”. In the jail she is now she has very limited possibilities. It is even a problem to get some books to read. In a prison it would be much better.

The problem I face is that we don’t have money for her at all. I have no idea what the bail would be, and if released on bail she needs to have an apartment and needs to finance her day to day life. We calculated the second would be maybe max. $1600 per month.

Nothing is decided now. Even if she gets an OK to be released on bail it doesn’t need to be taken and she can go back to jail if she cannot make her living. Many things have to be cleared also regarding internet access as she is supposed to be a hacker. (But personally I know she is far from being a crack.)

My question is would you be willing to support Alla?

Right now I don’t ask for money but if she gets released I need to put it on many shoulders. If you say now yes, I would then come back to you.

If we do not receive enough pledges we will certainly not apply for bail and then say “sorry, we can’t afford it.”

If you want to support Alla please let me know how much you want to give once or monthly, or both.

And there is another important question: If anyone knows someone who could give her a place to stay in Youngstown or in the state Ohio that would reduce the monthly costs remarkably. Of course we have no idea within what range she has to stay to Cleveland or Youngstown.

Erica and I have had her living in our apartment several times and I can tell you that Alla she is easy going; I consider her certainly ethical and in-exchange. Of course she can help with house chores etc, but with her immigration status she is not allowed to work, paid or unpaid.

We sent an email to Hauri, asking him if he’d tell us more about Witte’s involvement in Ron’s Org, and to inquire about the response he’s received to his email.

We’ll let you know if he gets back to us, and if he’s heard anything about whether Witte can get out of jail while she’s awaiting trial.

What a strange situation.



Bonus items from our tipsters

This Saturday, you too can fork over hundreds of thousands to help build an ‘Ideal Org’ where there are no Scientologists!



Source Code

“So, somebody trying to understand life sitting down on a mountain top some place in lower Jesus or some place — Jerusalem, excuse me — and he’s contemplating his navel or something, and trying to get the hot dope, he gives you all sorts of things. If he starts to get close to the truth, then the things he utters appear to be idiocies, see. If he gets close to the truth. Like, there really is no universe – Mary Baker Eddy. There is no universe. All is infinite mind. Isn’t it true? It’s very, very, very true but that doesn’t prevent Christian Science from being the leading religious faith you find on the rosters of insane asylums.” — L. Ron Hubbard, July 14 1964


Avast, Ye Mateys

“To all staff & students: Per HCO P/L 26 July 1965, ‘All students of any course are debarred from visiting any medical or healing practitioner unless they are given Ethics clearance first and all possibility of ‘rollercoaster’ (sudden case decline) has been looked into and any suppressive or bad auditing precisely isolated. The exception is an emergency involving severe injury, or infectious disease, but in this case the student must be cleared by Ethics to be permitted back on course or even in the Org. This includes all accidents.’ This line is to be in as of now. Course Admin is to ensure student goes to Ethics first. Staff are to go to HCO Reception and route to MO then MAA & Examiner. Until the new routing forms are approved & issued — Reception and Course Admin will have to write it in. The point is this line is effective now and no one sees the MO without following the line.” — Norma Randell for HAS, July 14, 1971



Overheard in the FreeZone

“A dwindling spiral of confront has been implanted in all of us, a culture of fear. Well, to hell with all this nonsense and Marcab PR. We are the FREE people. This planet is OURS. Times must change and a new breed of Scientologists must arise from the ashes and rise high like The Phoenix. This time is NOW.”


Past is Prologue

1997: Ted Mayett was hit with a drink this week while picketing Scientology’s Las Vegas org. “A woman, 35?? years old is going into the org from around the parking. She comes close to me, which is confusing, then throws a drink on me. Some syrup type drink. My shirt is ruined. I think she was trying for my face and missed. I’m completely stunned and shocked, she laughs and goes up the steps, at that moment Larry Perma (new name), who is or has been the ED of the org, comes out the door. I’m really disappointed in Larry Perma, he allowed that woman into the course room area, there was a time he would not have allowed her into the building at all for doing something stupid and mean like that. The Battery charge was filed as event # (go find out yourself). They tell me I cannot get the services of a Detective for about one week, but I will try to push this through tomorrow, because perhaps if A Detective comes out there I will not have to petition for police protection while picketing.”


Random Howdy

“If the ‘tech’ is perfect, how did all these SP’s slip through into the upper echelons of Scientology management in the first place?”


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

Criminal prosecutions:

Danny Masterson charged for raping three women: Trial scheduled for October 11.
‘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: Readiness hearing scheduled for August 22 in Los Angeles
David Gentile, GPB Capital, fraud: Next pretrial conference set for September 19.
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: Complaint filed April 28 in Tampa federal court, Scientology moving to compel arbitration.
Valerie Haney v. Scientology: Forced to ‘religious arbitration.’ Selection of arbitrators underway. Next court hearing: February 2, 2023.
Chrissie Bixler et al. v. Scientology and Danny Masterson: Appellate court removes requirement of arbitration on January 19, case remanded back to Superior Court. Stay in place, next status hearing October 25.
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] Another hype video! Scientology still begging members to go to the cruise ship’s ‘OT Bubble’
[TWO years ago] ‘Scientology Black Ops’ series with Leah Remini & Paul Haggis spiked by Aussie network
[THREE years ago] Is it time for Scientology to replace its cruise ship? If so, we’ve done the shopping.
[FOUR years ago] Scientology fundraiser: ‘It was commonplace to lie to church members to get donations’
[FIVE years ago] Now that Neil deGrasse Tyson is up against Leah Remini for an Emmy, will he rethink Scientology?
[SIX years ago] To Scientology’s Emily Jones: We have a message from your mother
[SEVEN years ago] Wise Beard Man visits Scientology’s new Fantasyland in Clearwater
[EIGHT years ago] The Dallas Morning News asks a question about Scientology, and we want your response
[NINE years ago] Someone Apparently Forgot to Notify the VA that Scientology is a Religion
[TEN years ago] Alexander Jentzsch, Son of Scientology’s President, Memorialized At Sea
[ELEVEN years ago] Scientology’s Spies, its Prison System, and Training Jerry Seinfeld: The Spectacular Life of Nancy Many


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 2,725 days.
Katrina Reyes has not seen her mother Yelena in 3,230 days
Sylvia Wagner DeWall has not seen her brother Randy in 2,780 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his grandson Leo in 1,770 days.
Geoff Levin has not seen his son Collin and daughter Savannah in 1,661 days.
Christie Collbran has not seen her mother Liz King in 4,966 days.
Clarissa Adams has not seen her parents Walter and Irmin Huber in 2,836 days.
Carol Nyburg has not seen her daughter Nancy in 3,610 days.
Doug Kramer has not seen his parents Linda and Norm in 1,941 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 4,414 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 3,730 days.
Dylan Gill has not seen his father Russell in 12,296 days.
Melissa Paris has not seen her father Jean-Francois in 8,215 days.
Valeska Paris has not seen her brother Raphael in 4,383 days.
Mirriam Francis has not seen her brother Ben in 3,963 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 4,225 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 3,261 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 2,976 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 2,501 days.
Julian Wain has not seen his brother Joseph or mother Susan in 856 days.
Charley Updegrove has not seen his son Toby in 2,031 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 6,582 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 3,731 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 4,051 days.
Roger Weller has not seen his daughter Alyssa in 8,906 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 4,025 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 2,381 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 6,684 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 2,790 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis in 3,188 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 3,064 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 2,647 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 3,142 days.
Mary Jane Barry has not seen her daughter Samantha in 3,396 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 14,505 days.


Posted by Tony Ortega on July 14, 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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