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Richie Acunto, Scientology donor and ‘Survival Insurance’ mogul, dead at 70

Richie Acunto, a colorful Scientology “whale” who had donated at least $10 million to the church, and who was once a major player in auto insurance in California, was found dead this week in Marina del Rey on his boat, where he had been living for several years.

Los Angeles County officials say the cause of death his still pending. He was 70.

We have written about Acunto numerous times here at the Bunker, and we considered him a fascinating character. At one point his company Survival Insurance was a ubiquitous presence in California and in the 1990s it was almost impossible to avoid its advertising.

Here’s an example of a classic Survival TV ad that featured Acunto himself…



But around the time that Acunto reached his greatest financial heights and became one of Scientology’s biggest donors as a “Patron Laureate” — indicating at least $10 million in donations — his businesses fell apart and he found himself mired in litigation.

Former associates accused Acunto of harming his businesses by funneling money from his ventures into Scientology in a bid to raise his status in the church, which became an issue in the lawsuits against him.

But we found other things interesting about Acunto. For example, that despite his great wealth and business success in California, he was terrified of flying, and it had to do with something he had experienced doing Scientology’s notorious “OT 3” auditing level, when wealthy church members are exposed to the “Xenu” story.

Because of what he’d experienced on OT 3, he told friends, Acunto refused to fly in airplanes or ride in elevators. On the other hand, he was a huge fan of ripping around on overpowered street bikes, despite the risk that entailed.

Acunto made the donations to Scientology that brought him to the $10 million level in 2008, but by 2011 his companies were in bankruptcy. His creditors, in litigation, claimed that the two were related to each other.

Between 2010 and 2012, Acunto not only lost his businesses, but also several homes, and his marriage fell apart. He then moved to his boat in Marina Del Rey.

His ex-wife, Scientologist Amy Walker, died of cancer in 2020. She and Acunto had two daughters who are young adults.

One sign that Acunto had hit hard times was that his Patron Laureate and other Scientology trophies showed up in an auction after Acunto had lost control of a storage unit. One of the trophies, for “Platinum Meritorious” ($2.5 million) somehow then ended up being dropped off at a Christian church in Florida, of all places. When a reader told us they’d found it, we made sure it got a home where it would be appreciated.



For more about Richie Acunto and his fortunes as a car insurance mogul and Scientology donor, please see our 2014 story about him.


The Underground Bunker’s 2022 Scientology year-in-review starts today!

A very happy winter solstice to our northern hemisphere readers, and to our antipodean friends, enjoy your summer! Once again it’s time to take stock of the year just past with our annual review, and there’s no doubt about it, this was a mistrial of a year!

For years we have been preparing for the Danny Masterson criminal trial and all that it would entail for the Church of Scientology, and then arrived the weeks of actual coverage which were some of our most intriguing as a journalist, and then it all ended with a hung jury, a mistrial, and a retrial scheduled for next year.

What an experience. What a year. And what a lot of Scientology watching with our great Bunker of regulars.

As usual, we covered a lot of different topics in the world of Scientology this year, and as is our custom, we’ll be reviewing a different month each day until December 31 when we wrap up our look back at November and December. At that point we’ll also reveal our picks for our favorite 20 stories of the year.

Of course, we won’t stop reporting the news over the next ten days, but we hope you enjoy our look through the archives. So here we go. First up, the stories of January 2022…


Our first big piece of the new year was focused on a Scientology private investigator who had stalked both Leah Remini and Jennifer Lopez. The PI, Yanti Michael Greene, was outed when texts released in an unrelated lawsuit got into our hands, and now we also learned that Greene was unlicensed at the time he was tailing Leah and J-Lo.

In another follow-up to a big previous story, another person came forward to say they had experienced the “Chase Wave,” and brought along a check to prove it.


We had fun taking a look at some of the videos that are posted at Scientology leader David Miscavige’s personal website, which feature prominent church members gushing about what a great guy he is.

On January 12 we published a truly unique video, a Mannequin Challenge filmed by members of the Miscavige family, including David’s twin sister Denise and her husband.

The next day, we reported that Danny Masterson’s new lawyers were sending out aggressive process servers that were setting his victims on edge.

We also noted the passing of a journalist who had been outed as a paid agent for Scientology.

Then, on January 19, one of the biggest stories of the year: An appellate court overturned a lower court ruling restoring the civil lawsuit filed by Danny Masterson’s accusers. Scientology’s winning streak with its “religious arbitration” scheme had finally had a setback, and it was a remarkable one.

Also, Bruce Hines gave us another of his intriguing narratives, this time about selling Scientology in Germany.

A LOOK BACK AT JANUARY 2021: The Whales getting Scientology through the pandemic. We start up The Lowdown, a place to discuss politics. Never-before-seen photos of a celebrity-soaked mission opening. Danny Masterson pleads not guilty to rape charges and his case is assigned to Judge Charlaine Olmedo. Chris Owen goes deep on Scientology in Russia (part 1, part 2, part 3).

A LOOK BACK AT JANUARY 2020: Scientology arch spy Henning Heldt died, and we looked back at his infamous career. Sonya Bianchi, the original ‘Clear,’ died at 92. Brian Statler’s parents filed a wrongful death lawsuit over his fatal shooting by Inglewood police. Cedric Bixler-Zavala accused Scientology of poisoning his dog. Judge Richard Burdge granted Scientology’s motion to force Valerie Haney’s lawsuit into “religious arbitration.”

A LOOK BACK AT JANUARY 2019: Leah Remini’s ‘Aftermath’ series featured episodes on Paul Burkhart and Bert Schippers, Heather Ruggieri and Carol Nyburg, and a two-parter on the city of Clearwater. Scientology tried to pin a frightening stabbing death at the Advanced Org in Sydney on Leah. A new Advanced Org opened in South Africa. And Chris Shelton interviewed a new defector, Bree Mood, who said that Sea Org women are still being forced to get abortions.

A LOOK BACK AT JANUARY 2018: Chris Owen delivered on the mysteries of L. Ron Hubbard and his parents. We printed revelations about Joy Villa from her ex-boyfriend and her ex-manager. We weighed in on Xenu or Xemu. Katrina Reyes finally got to tell her story of disconnection. Former Scientology spy Cierra Westerman came forward.

A LOOK BACK AT JANUARY 2017: Brandon Reisdorf was featured on Aftermath. The LAPD snubbed Leah Remini. Marc Headley revealed that he was “bedsheet Jesus.” Billionaire Scientologist Trish Duggan made the scene at Trump’s inaugural. And Bernie Headley inspired us to start our ‘disconnected’ list.

A LOOK BACK AT JANUARY 2016: A local police chief gets played by Scientology, but later thinks better of it. Researcher R.M. Seibert gets the lowdown on how Scientology is using ‘religious’ visas to bring in foreign workers. Karen de la Carriere gets a nasty letter from a Scientology attorney.

A LOOK BACK AT JANUARY 2015: Alex Gibney’s documentary Going Clear premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah, and we were there. Scientology had taken out full-page ads in major newspapers attacking Gibney before the film debuted. And it made predictable attacks afterwards. And in a new release of old documents, John McMaster, the world’s first true “Clear,” revealed that L. Ron Hubbard expected to come back as his daughter Diana’s child.

A LOOK BACK AT JANUARY 2014: We posted the Tommy Davis deposition from the Monique Rathbun lawsuit. Scientology’s own attorney discussed David Miscavige’s “black heart” in open court. Barbara Cordova Oliver went missing. Jefferson Hawkins wrapped up his series on Scientology “ethics.”


A LOOK BACK AT JANUARY 2013: Lawrence Wright’s epic book Going Clear debuted, as did John Sweeney’s book, Luis and Rocio Garcia filed their federal fraud lawsuit, and Atlantic magazine screwed up big time.


Technology Cocktail

“The Code of a Scientologist is a stopgap to serve in the interim time when all Scientologists are not yet up to a level where they are content to receive for their opponents the logical targets of the science itself, and for their randomity must pick out the organization and other Scientologists in order to engage in a game. With all Scientologists subscribing to this code, Scientology will, itself, become a potent forward motion in our world and this universe.” — L. Ron Hubbard, 1954



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 as Danny faces a potential sentence of 45 years to life in prison. NOW WITH TRIAL INDEX.


THE PODCAST: How many have you heard?

— The Underground Bunker Podcast


[1] Marc Headley [2] Claire Headley [3] Jeffrey Augustine [4] Bruce Hines [5] Sunny Pereira [6] Pete Griffiths [7] Geoff Levin [8] Patty Moher [9] Marc Headley [10] Jefferson Hawkins [11] Michelle ‘Emma’ Ryan [12] Paulette Cooper [13] Jesse Prince [14] Mark Bunker [15] Jon Atack [16] Mirriam Francis [17] Bruce Hines on MSH

— SPECIAL: The best TV show on Scientology you never got to see

[1] Phil Jones [2] Derek Bloch [3] Carol Nyburg [4] Katrina Reyes [5] Jamie DeWolf

— SPECIAL: Your Proprietor’s updates on the Danny Masterson trial

[1] Sep 21 [2] Sep 28 [3] Oct 4 [4] Oct 10 [5] Oct 11: Day One [6] Oct 12: Day Two [7] Oct 13: Day Three [8] Oct 17: Day Four [9] Oct 18: Day Five [10] Oct 19: Day Six [11] Special interview with Chris Shelton, Oct 19 [12] Oct 20: Day Seven [13] Oct 21: Day Eight [14] First week in review, with Jeffrey Augustine [15] Oct 24: Day Nine [16] Oct 25: Day Ten [17] Oct 27: Day Eleven [18] Oct 28: Day Twelve [19] Second week in review, with Jeffrey Augustine [20] Halloween special [21] Nov 2: Day Thirteen [22] Nov 3: Day Fourteen [23] Nov 4: Day Fifteen [24] Third week in review [25] Nov 5, Saturday special [26] Nov 6, Sunday special [27] Nov 7, Day Sixteen [28] Lisa Marie Presley breaking news [29] Nov 8, Day Seventeen [30] Nov 9, Day Eighteen [31] Nov 10, Day Nineteen


Source Code

“Once in a while you’ll send a preclear up to the moon, and Earth and sun, you know, doing a Grand Tour, and you get a fascinating reaction from him if he is really on the ball. There’s a space station on the back of the moon — that’s space station 33 — and it has corridors and observatory domes and a lot of other things, a lot of odds and ends. But these corridors are on different levels. So that we have a hallway, you see, a corridor, and then we have one which is maybe 12 or 15 feet above the level. You see, the next level. So we’d go down this corridor, and then we’d have to go up 12 or 15 feet to go down to the next corridor. And they’ll take a look at this and they will see that there is nothing but sheer wall face between this lower corridor and the upper corridor floor — 15 foot sheer drop between these two corridors. And they will say, ‘Something is wrong here. There are no stairs. I don’t know what I’m doing here, or what’s going on, but this place is kind of funny. There are no stairs here.’ Why should there be any stairs where gravity is so slight?” — L. Ron Hubbard, December 21, 1954


Avast, Ye Mateys

“CHRISTMAS: I trust you like the place chosen for Christmas. Sure looks like a Christmas tree. It began by the pilots Out-PROing us. Remember that the pilots are not the rest of the harbour people and have their own set up. They sent us a lovely card, welcoming ‘the world’s largest yacht and its fantastic crew.’ Visit to port authorities went great. Plan to keep it very cool.” — The Commodore, December 21, 1969



Overheard in the FreeZone

“I see the possibility of a renaissance of Scientology. It can be big again. A second opportunity. An opportunity to make it go right. To learn from past mistakes and not commit it again. However currently the group is going through a process of dying and in my opinion the process must be carried through its end. The place looks like a ghost town. It’s hard to see it, but to deny won’t help it. We must make an honest review, see what went wrong and do it again. The death of the Scientology group must probably be completed and at the same time we can try again. What were the worst mistakes of us? Give your opinion. Mine is: promising states that were never achievable. Pretension of having attained such states.”


Past is Prologue

1996: PA News reported that a member of the British House of Lords has announced he is a Scientologist. “A Liberal Democrat peer today disclosed he is a member of the Church of Scientology, as a Home Office minister warned of the ‘potential dangers’ of becoming involved in such organisations. In Lords question time exchanges on the operations of the organisation, Lord McNair, 49, declared: ‘I have to tell the House that I have an interest — and that interest is that I am a member of the Church of Scientology.’ Tory Baroness Sharples earlier told the House: ‘Those who have left the cult, a number of them, have been both threatened and harassed and a considerable number of them have been made bankrupt by the church.’ Home Office Minister of State Baroness Blatch said: ‘People should be warned of the potential dangers of becoming involved in organisations of this kind.'”


Random Howdy

“Chinese food, Mexican food, good fish’n’chips and the occasional great hamburger and potatoes are all I need to live.”


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


Criminal prosecutions:
Danny Masterson charged for raping three women: Mistrial declared November 30. Status conference scheduled January 10, retrial scheduled March 27.
‘Lafayette Ronald Hubbard’ (a/k/a Justin Craig), aggravated assault, plus drug charges: Grand jury indictments include charges from an assault while in custody. Plea deadline scheduled for December 16.
Jay and Jeff Spina, Medicare fraud: Jay sentenced to 9 years in prison. Jeff scheduled to time served with three years supervised release, restitution of $9.7 million.
Rizza Islam, Medi-Cal fraud: Trial scheduled for March 1 in Los Angeles
David Gentile, GPB Capital, fraud: Next pretrial hearing December 9.
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. Plaintiffs filed amended complaint on August 2. Hearing November 17 to argue the arbitration motions, awaiting ruling.
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 at least through February 7.
Brian Statler Sr v. City of Inglewood: Case settled ahead of scheduled Dec 6 trial.
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.



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] The Underground Bunker’s 2021 Scientology year-in-review starts today!
[TWO years ago] The Underground Bunker’s 2020 Scientology year-in-review starts today!
[THREE years ago] The Underground Bunker’s 2019 Scientology year-in-review starts today!
[FOUR years ago] The Underground Bunker’s 2018 Scientology year-in-review starts today!
[FIVE years ago] The Underground Bunker’s 2017 Scientology year-in-review starts today!
[SIX years ago] The Underground Bunker’s 2016 Scientology year-in-review starts today!
[SEVEN years ago] The Underground Bunker’s 2015 Scientology year-in-review starts today!
[EIGHT years ago] The Underground Bunker’s 2014 Scientology year-in-review starts today!
[NINE years ago] Jon Atack: For Scientologists, thinking outside the church can feel like breaking a taboo
[TEN years ago] VIDEO: Tiziano Lugli’s “Shit Scientologists Say,” Featuring Prominent Ex-Church Members
[ELEVEN years ago] Scientology Document Suggests Huffington Post Religion Blogger has been on the Church’s Payroll


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 2,885 days.
Katrina Reyes has not seen her mother Yelena in 3,390 days
Sylvia Wagner DeWall has not seen her brother Randy in 2,940 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his grandson Leo in 1,930 days.
Geoff Levin has not seen his son Collin and daughter Savannah in 1,821 days.
Christie Collbran has not seen her mother Liz King in 5,126 days.
Clarissa Adams has not seen her parents Walter and Irmin Huber in 2,996 days.
Doug Kramer has not seen his parents Linda and Norm in 2,101 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 4,574 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 3,890 days.
Dylan Gill has not seen his father Russell in 12,456 days.
Melissa Paris has not seen her father Jean-Francois in 8,375 days.
Valeska Paris has not seen her brother Raphael in 4,543 days.
Mirriam Francis has not seen her brother Ben in 4,124 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 4,385 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 3,421 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 3,136 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 2,701 days.
Julian Wain has not seen his brother Joseph or mother Susan in 1,016 days.
Charley Updegrove has not seen his son Toby in 2,191 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 6,742 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 3,873 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 4,211 days.
Roger Weller has not seen his daughter Alyssa in 9,066 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 4,185 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 2,541 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 6,844 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 2,950 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis in 3,348 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 3,224 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 2,807 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 3,302 days.
Mary Jane Barry has not seen her daughter Samantha in 3,556 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 14,665 days.


Posted by Tony Ortega on December 21, 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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