Church of Scientology Sued for Fraudulent Use of Donations
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UPDATED: Jan 28, 2013
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A new lawsuit filed against the Church of Scientology, along with other recent bad publicity, may send the controversial religion into a state of decline. Two formerly-dedicated members of the Church, Luis and Rocio Garcia of California, are bringing a federal suit claiming that donation funds were misused and that deserved refunds were not granted to people who paid for services they never received.
The lawsuit alleges that the Church took $200 million in donations from numerous sources for a building development project that was never completed. The Garcias claim to have donated nearly $400,000 to this project, as well as other amounts to other projects, but never saw their money go to use. Accusations were made that the donation money was spent funding the glamorous lifestyle of David Miscavige, Scientology leader.
Media around Miscavige has been rife with corruption since he took over operations in the late 1980s. Accusations of fraud and embezzlement are widespread, even physical abuse to members has been alleged. Known for its high-profile, Hollywood supporters, the Church is accused of straying from its original sentiments and becoming a profit-driven corporation under Miscavige’s watch.
In other bad publicity for Scientology, renowned author Lawrence Wright recently published “Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, & the Prison of Belief,” exposing abuses within the Church and painting a disreputable picture of the inter-workings of the organization. Other former Scientologists have also filed lawsuits against the Church, making for a growing cloud of negative attention.
Understanding Fraud Charges
In order to be successful in their lawsuit, the Garcias will have to produce convincing evidence that fraud took place. Fraud is defined as knowingly accepting gains—money or property—of others through misrepresentation. In order to prove fraud, the couple and their attorneys must prove two basic elements: that Miscavige or Church officials knew the information they were giving to obtain funds was false information; and that victims suffered an actual loss or injury as a direct result of this misrepresentation. If found guilty, defendants could face criminal penalties for fraud including steep fines and prison sentences of up to fifteen years.
The Garcias’ attorneys say they expect this suit to be the first of many to come as numerous other members have complained about being pressured into giving the church money upfront for services never rendered, reports the International Business Times.