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Tampa Bay Times identifies developer acting as Scientology’s front in Clearwater

[Rodney Riley]

We’ve told you how Scientology leader David Miscavige really wanted to get his hands on a small parcel of land in downtown Clearwater, Florida that is surrounded by other Scientology properties, but in 2017 the city stopped him from getting it.

As a result, we learned through some blockbuster reporting by Tampa Bay Times staffer Tracey McManus, wealthy Scientologists went on a buying spree, snapping up properties all around Clearwater’s downtown and North Marina areas, and for eye-popping prices, sometimes for much more than the properties were worth.

The implication seemed clear: Angry that he’d been spurned by the city, Miscavige was directing rich Scientologists to snap up even more control of it.

Scientology denied that it had anything to do with those land purchases, which have generally just sat unused since then.


Now, McManus is back with another blockbuster: She’s obtained an email which appears to confirm not only that the properties were bought in a coordinated effort directed by the church, but that an out-of-town developer with no ties to Scientology has been brought in as a ringer to front efforts to develop the parcels in the North Marina area.

Everyone is denying that implication, of course, including the developer, Rodney Riley, who arrived in Clearwater last year after establishing a record of working with the Mormon church to develop properties in Arizona.

And we want to make it clear: No one is saying that Riley’s $350 million development proposal in the North Marina area would be a bad thing for the city. But it would require permission from the city for variances to existing codes, and as new city manager Jennifer Poirrier explained, it’s not a good sign that the developer is not being more forthcoming about who he’s representing.

“Deception — that’s not going to be appreciated by the community and by the city, especially when there’s no reason for it,” she told McManus.

The email that McManus obtained spells out that Riley will be acting as the public face for OT 8 Scientologist investor Stephen Epstein, who is based in Nashville. And another player who is actually behind the North Marina development is Osman Ozsan, a Scientologist and money manager for Trish Duggan, the wealthy ex-wife of Bob Duggan, Scientology’s single biggest donor, who has given more than $360 million in donations to the church.

Trish Duggan, Ozsan, and Epstein were apparently concerned about the public finding out they were actually behind the new North Marina development, and so Epstein, in the email McManus obtained, asked Riley to come to town as a “white knight” and act as the project’s front to make it appear “legit.” It also suggested that Riley would be meeting with the Church of Scientology’s Clearwater spokesman, Ben Shaw.

Riley arrived in Clearwater in January 2022, and has been promoting the $350 million development, which involves numerous properties owned by Scientologists, while going out of his way to say that he is not a Scientologist himself.

He denied to the Tampa Bay Times that he received the email from Epstein, and he and his attorney denied that he was acting as a front for Scientology. From Tracey’s story…

[The email] says Epstein would “facilitate meetings” between himself, Riley “and Ben Shaw, with the Church, for the purpose of hopefully acquiring as much property as possible and figuring out where to place museum, etc.”

In his statement to the Times, Riley said he has never met with Shaw.

“The Church of Scientology is not an investor, tenant or end buyer of any project I’m developing in the North Marina area,” Riley stated. “Just because I’m buying land from Scientologists or would welcome investors of all religions does not mean I’m doing projects for the Church of Scientology.”

Sure, sure.

Meanwhile, we can now see why Shaw went into such a freakout and sent an unhinged letter to the city’s mayor about McManus, which we showed you on March 17.

Also, we raised an eyebrow when we noticed that Poirrier said she was assured by Riley’s land-use attorney, Brian Aungst Jr., that Riley was operating independently.


That turns out to be something of a fib, and coming from the son of the man, Brian Aungst Sr., who the city council just selected to be mayor for the next eleven months.

And look, we will again say this project in the North Marina area may end up being a good thing for the folks of Clearwater. But it’s sweet vindication for Tracey McManus that confirms what we all suspected: The property buying spree was a concerted effort by Scientology to gain even more control of the town.

That hasn’t stopped city leaders like Mark Bunker, who are going ahead with plans to revitalize the downtown without Scientology’s involvement.

Please read Tracey’s story for even more detail about the email and the denials she got from Riley, Shaw, and everyone else involved.


Technology Cocktail

“If you were sailing along seventy-five feet back of your head some day, and you see some preclear come along, just shift your range of vision enough to find that preclear’s wing anchor points; if you were to get hold of one of these wing anchor points and just bend it off line—the person will walk in a circle. As long as you hold the anchor point out of line the person will walk out of line.” — L. Ron Hubbard, 1957



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?

[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

— The first Danny Masterson trial and beyond

[18] Trial special with Chris Shelton [19] Trial week one [20] Marc Headley on the spy in the hallway [21] Trial week two [22] Trial week three [23] Trial week four [24] Leah Remini on LAPD Corruption [25] Mike Rinder 2022 Thanksgiving Special [26] Jane Doe 4 (Tricia Vessey), Part One [27] Jane Doe 4 (Tricia Vessey), Part Two [28] Claire Headley on the trial [29] Tory Christman [30] Bruce Hines on spying [31] Karen de la Carriere [32] Ron Miscavige on Shelly Miscavige [33] Karen de la Carriere on the L’s [34] Mark Bunker on Miscavige hiding [35] Mark Plummer [36] Mark Ebner [37] Karen Pressley [38] Steve Cannane [39] Fredrick Brennan [40] Clarissa Adams [41] Louise Shekter


Source Code

“Now, if you were to duplicate teeth on a preclear, you just say, ‘All right. Now, let’s duplicate teeth.’ And he starts duplicating teeth, teeth, teeth, teeth, teeth, till he gets lots of teeth, lots of teeth, lots of teeth. First thing you know out of this big pile of teeth which he’s gotten out there, he’ll start to get the emotion ‘Whee! Let’s all be teeth. Let’s fill the whole universe up full of teeth. Everything’s got to be teeth.’ Well, of course this is the central motive as far as teeth are concerned. Everything must duplicate teeth. Any object has this as an obsession. It must be duplicated. If it goes downhill it gets down to a point, finally, where, of course, it must not be duplicated, which is it must hide, withdraw, get very small, be hard, compact.” — L. Ron Hubbard, April 2, 1954


Avast, Ye Mateys


“I hope no desperate casualties resulted from the APRIL FOOL OOD. All Fools Day originated when they changed the Gregorian Calendar in 1564. The first day of the year was April 1st before then. When New Years Day became January 1st, those who persisted in celebrating it as April 1st became targets. It originated in France where they are called APRIL FISH and went to Scotland where they are called APRIL GAWKS. Through the English speaking world it is APRIL FOOLS. All from a PR stunt to teach the new Calendar! So when Al Bornstein, FAO PR wrote up an April Fool OODs with Geoff Barnes and Gorman the Management carried out a reversal even on them. In the Immortal Words of Product Officer FAO Amos Jessup, ‘Anyone who was taken in by that OOD had better review his Data Series!’ So would the FEBCs do a Data Analysis on that April Fools OOD as an exercise. Self preservation demands they be able to recognize real OUT POINTS when they get back to their orgs. People were in stitches over the results of the joke, so I hope no bruised feelings remain.” — The Commodore, April 2, 1971


Overheard in the FreeZone

“I want to do a Purif but I’ve had soo many drugs pumped into me as a sick child, I’m so scared. I mostly want to do a Purif because of how many psych meds I’ve been on. I actually just got out of a 72-hour psychiatric hold and I still feel weird from all the drugs they pumped into me.”


Past is Prologue

2001: La Prensa reported that Scientology’s ship, the Freewinds, may be inspected for dangerous asbestos levels. “People of the Shipping Inspection expect problems in seriously dealing with the ‘Freewinds’. All buildings and ships built before 1970 were built with asbestos. All plates/panels on roofs are made of dangerous asbestos. According to a functionary of the Shipping Inspection, this is a material which provides good protection from fire. ‘Why should we begin refusing ‘Freewinds,’ when we know that all ships built before 1970 were fitted with that material? Then we would have to refuse the majority of ships,’ according to the statement. Richardson emphasizes that blue asbestos is not dangerous, as long as one does not come into contact with it. ‘We understand that the asbestos on board is in hard, and not powder, form. We will soon inspect the ‘Freewinds.’ We will do this together with Shipping Inspection and the Port Safety Inspection, since these are the the nautical authorities in this case,’ according to Richardson’s statement.”


Random Howdy

“Why would Scientologists feel love for each other? According to Hubbard they are just random thetans occupying random meat bodies. Your children aren’t really ‘your’ children. That’s one of the reasons it seems so easy for some Scientologists to disconnect. Your relatives are merely other pod people.”



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

Criminal prosecutions:
Danny Masterson charged for raping three women: Mistrial declared November 30. Retrial scheduled, jury selection begins March 29. Next pretrial hearing: Feb 16.
‘Lafayette Ronald Hubbard’ (a/k/a Justin Craig), aggravated assault, plus drug charges: Grand jury indictments include charges from an assault while in custody. Next pretrial hearing Feb 13.
Rizza Islam, Medi-Cal fraud: Trial scheduled for March 1 in Los Angeles
David Gentile, GPB Capital, fraud: Next status conference Feb 13.

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: March 15, 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.
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] Academic forum caves to scary Scientology attorneys, spikes our presentation
[TWO years ago] SNL produced the best parody of Scientology ever — and then hired a Scientologist
[THREE years ago] Scientology is dying to keep you well from the pandemic it doesn’t believe in
[FOUR years ago] Thetans in the Jungle: Scientology in Papua New Guinea’s Highlands
[FIVE years ago] Mike Rinder: Scientology is ‘disappearing at a consistent unchanging unwavering rate’
[SIX years ago] Scientology for your plants? In the grand tradition of L. Ron Hubbard, yes!
[SEVEN years ago] Scientology’s demonology: Where L. Ron Hubbard got the idea for your space cooties
[EIGHT years ago] Robert Vaughn Young on L. Ron Hubbard’s final days — another ‘Secret Lives’ video outtake
[NINE years ago] Florida attorney Ken Dandar hit with $1 million penalty for taking on Scientology
[TEN years ago] Why Isn’t Scientology More Open About Its Space Opera Beliefs? It’s the Best Part!


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 2,987 days.
Katrina Reyes has not seen her mother Yelena in 3,492 days
Sylvia Wagner DeWall has not seen her brother Randy in 3,042 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his grandson Leo in 2,032 days.
Geoff Levin has not seen his son Collin and daughter Savannah in 1,923 days.
Christie Collbran has not seen her mother Liz King in 5,227 days.
Clarissa Adams has not seen her parents Walter and Irmin Huber in 3,098 days.
Doug Kramer has not seen his parents Linda and Norm in 2,203 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 4,680 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 3,992 days.
Dylan Gill has not seen his father Russell in 12,558 days.
Melissa Paris has not seen her father Jean-Francois in 8,477 days.
Valeska Paris has not seen her brother Raphael in 4,645 days.
Mirriam Francis has not seen her brother Ben in 4,226 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 4,487 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 3,523 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 3,239 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 2,803 days.
Julian Wain has not seen his brother Joseph or mother Susan in 1,118 days.
Charley Updegrove has not seen his son Toby in 2,293 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 6,844 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 3,975 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 4,313 days.
Roger Weller has not seen his daughter Alyssa in 9,168 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 4,287 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 2,643 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 6,946 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 3,052 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis in 3,450 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 3,326 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 2,909 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 3,404 days.
Mary Jane Barry has not seen her daughter Samantha in 3,658 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 14,767 days.


Posted by Tony Ortega on April 2, 2023 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, 1995-2022 Just starting out here? We’ve picked out the most important stories we’ve covered here at the Underground Bunker (2012-2022), 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


Tony Ortega at Rolling Stone


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