Photo of Arrest Warrant
The investigator, a former Los Angeles police officer named Eugene
Martin Ingram, is accused of impersonating a Hillsborough County
sheriff's detective. Tampa police say Ingram was quizzing a woman
about an alleged prostitution ring that he said involved Pasco
County Sheriff Lee Cannon.
Police also have investigated Matt Bratschi, a reporter for the
church publication Freedom magazine. Bratschi, who has
not been charged, is believed by police to have accompanied Ingram
on the interview.
The woman, who lives in Pasco County, contacted authorities and
told them she does not know Cannon and knows nothing about a prostitution
"I was a little amazed," Cannon said Friday of the church's
inquiry. "The whole thing is a mystery to me."
He said he has never had any contact with the Church of Scientology,
does not know the woman and is not connected to any prostitution
ring. Nor is his department involved in any large-scaled prostitution
investigation, he said.
The woman, whose name is withheld by the Times to protect
her privacy, declined to comment Friday.
Former members and critics of the church say Ingram has been seen
around the country in recent years, harassing them in connection
with their anti-Scientology activities, questioning their neighbors
and using other intimidation tactics.
Ingram did not return messages to his Los Angeles business office
Friday. Bratschi could not be reached for comment.
Ingram's Los Angeles lawyer, Elliot Abelson, said Friday that
he had no information on the charge but added that it "sounds
ridiculous." He said Ingram works for several law firms,
some of which represent the Church of Scientology.
Ingram "is one of the finest investigators I've ever seen,"
said Abelson, who also has represented Scientology and has known
Ingram for 20 years. "He's just ordinary fold as far as
I'm concerned. I don't think he has intimidated anyone who doesn't
want to be intimidated."
Kurt Weiland, a top Scientology official in Los Angeles, said
Ingram and Bratschi were working on two investigations for Freedom
magazine last year.
One was based on a tip about sexual activities involving Pasco
County officials, he said. The other, he said, was an investigation
of the St. Petersburg Times. For years, the Church of
Scientology has been critical of the coverage it has received
from the Times.
The church's spiritual headquarters are in Clearwater.
At some point, Weiland said, Bratschi and Ingram "had indications
of a cross-over" between the two investigations. He would
"We haven't published everything there is to publish,"
According to police reports, two men showed up last June at the
Tampa headquarters of Salomon brothers, a brokerage firm. They
allegedly said they were police officers and asked the security
guard to summon the woman, a Salomon Brothers employee.
The woman told police they presented badges with gold stars and
green-and-beige identification cards and said they were Hillsborough
County sheriff's detectives. She said they asked her about a
prostitution ring in Pasco involving Cannon and asked whether
she had dated Cannon.
The woman called the Pasco Sheriff's Office, who reviewed the
sign-in log at Salomon Brothers. The log contained the names
"G. Ingram" and "Matt Bratsch."
Pasco investigators recognized the names. On the same day the
woman was questioned by the two men, Bratschi and Ingram had submitted
a lengthy public records request at the Pasco County Sheriff's
The request asked for 14 items, including appointment books, personnel
files, telephone records and internal affairs records about a
"sex scandal" within the office's communications division.
The Sheriff's Office provided the two with some of the information
requested. A handful of items were denied either because they
weren't public records or because they weren't on file with the
sheriff, said Mike Randall, the sheriff's legal counsel.
Later, Tampa police detectives acquired pictures of Bratschi and
Ingram from their California driver's licenses. The woman from
Salomon Brothers identified Ingram as one of the two men who interviewed
her, but couldn't identify Bratschi.
There is a warrant in Tampa for Ingram's arrest. His bail is
set at $1,000. The maximum penalty for impersonating a police
officer, a felony, is five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
Asked about the charge, Weiland said: "I've heard stuff like
that before and it's usually done when an investigator gets close
to something. They're trying to back him off."
Abelson, the lawyer for Ingram, said Ingram left his business
card with the woman. He disputed the charge and suggested police
were "trying to prosecute the guy in the newspapers. Obviously,
you guys are going along with it."
Scientology has a long history of conducting aggressive investigations.
The most notorious example came in the 1970s when Scientologists
infiltrated government offices in Washington D.C. and stole documents
relating to government actions against the church.
A total of 11 high-ranking Scientologists, including the wife of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, were convicted.
Church officials recently said those people are no longer with
the church and that their days of hardball intimidation tactics
are behind them.
But several former members say Ingram has harassed them.
Ingram appeared in Seattle recently, according to Stacy Young,
a former church official and the wife of Robert Vaughn Young,
formerly, a top Scientology spokesman. The couple left the church
in 1989 and now speak against it.
Ingram has been spreading false information about the Youngs to
their neighbors and friends, Stacy Young said. She said a neighbor
was taking out his trash three weeks ago when Ingram appeared
and began questioning him in the street. When Robert Young confronted
him, Ingram ran, she said.
Pricilla Coates, chair of the Los Angles Cult Awareness Network chapter, said Ingram once showed up unexpectedly at her husband's office. Ingram told her husband, who is a physician, "that I was getting kickbacks from deprogrammers and that I would get commission of like, $10,000," Coates said. She denied it.
Ingram used to work for the Los Angeles Police Department, where
he was a desk sergeant. He was fired in 1981 on charges that
he ran a house of prostitution and tipped off a drug dealer about
a raid. In a jury trial, he was later acquitted.
In 1985, after Ingram began working as a private investigator,
a letter surfaced indicating that an LAPD officer had given Ingram
permission to eavesdrop on a former Scientologist.
This was strictly against department policy. Then LAPD Chief Daryl
Gates sharply criticized the episode.
Ingram shrugs off criticism. He told the Los Angeles Times
for a story published in 1990: "People who claim that I have
conducted an improper investigation probably have so much to hide."