Accused studied with Madonna

The Sydney Morning Herald/July 19, 2006
By Dylan Welch

A one-time Australian leader of a celebrity religious sect, arrested yesterday over an alleged $2 million marijuana haul, spent time in the US learning Kabbalah with Madonna and Demi Moore.

While on a trip to Los Angeles, Gilla Mogilevsky met the founder of Kabbalah, former insurance representative Philip Berg, 78.

She attended lessons held by Berg along with Madonna, her husband Guy Ritchie, and Moore.

"Madonna was dressed very normally, incognito, she did not draw attention to herself and just blended in," Mogilevsky, 53, told The Sun-Herald in 2004.

The sect, founded by Berg in the US nearly four decades ago, has become a celebrity magnet, attracting such high-profile devotees as Britney Spears, Jerry Hall, Elizabeth Taylor, Barbra Streisand and Paris Hilton.

Mogilevsky was reported to have opened the Australian headquarters of the movement above a tool store in Alexandria after her meetings with Berg in the US.

The opening of a Kabbalah branch in Sydney provoked cries of outrage among Sydney's Jewish community, with the then president of the Australian Council of Jewry calling it "a kind of fast-food mysticism" and advising people "to be wary of joining it".

While her Kabbalah branch did not last, Mogilevsky has since been involved with Pranic Healing, and is listed as the director on its Australian website.

The website describes her as a "senior teacher of Pranic healing courses" in Adelaide, Sydney and Israel and says her background is in "corporate business and management for over 20 years".

"She is also a practitioner of regression and past life therapy, and a certified Fortenbery-Murry somatic psychology counsellor," the website says.

Mogilevsky and her three sons - Uri, 26, Roni, 24, and Aitan, 23 - were arrested yesterday after a police raid on four homes in Cowan Road and Killeaton Street, St Ives.

The raid allegedly uncovered a hydroponic cannabis set-up with a street value of about $2 million.

All four were charged with the cultivation, supply and possession of a prohibited drug.

Three of the houses, believed to be worth up to $1 million each, were found to contain about 1000 plants altogether, and Mogilevsky, Roni and Aitan were arrested at the fourth house.

Uri was arrested in the Gold Coast with the co-operation of Queensland police.

He also featured in the news in 2001, when he was kidnapped by an eastern suburbs gang.

Two of the four properties were on neighbouring blocks of land and the other two were adjoined.

It is believed the family jumped over the fences to tend their crops.

Police said the three properties containing the cannabis had been bought in the past 12 months, while the family allegedly lived and ran the operation from the fourth property, which was rented.

Police were reportedly alerted to the drugs by local residents, who had complained of a smell coming from the properties.

All four were refused bail in Hornsby Local Court yesterday.

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