Texas lawsuit: Scientology leader paid private investigators millions to monitor former rival

The Dallas Morning News/September 23, 2012

San Patricio County has become the unlikely setting for a lawsuit that accuses the Church of Scientology of spending millions of dollars over the past 24 years to spy on one man.

Scientology leader David Miscavige allegedly paid two private investigators about $500,000 each year since 1988 - a total of about $10 million to $12 million - to keep a close watch on Pat Broeker, a man who was Miscavige's former rival for control of the church, according to the investigators' attorney.

Those payments ended earlier this year, and now the two investigators, Paul Marrick and Greg Arnold, are suing Scientology for allegedly breaking promises that their jobs were permanent.

The church did not respond to a request for comment. The church is based in Los Angeles and Clearwater, Fla. It claims membership of millions, but former executives who had access to enrollment documents say the actual number is around 40,000.

Power struggle

Scientology was founded in the early 1950s by science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, who later went into seclusion before his death in 1986. Hubbard named a young couple, Pat and Annie Broeker, to succeed him as leaders of his movement. But after Hubbard's death, the Broekers were instead replaced by Miscavige in a power struggle.

According to the lawsuit, Miscavige was concerned that Pat Broeker still constituted a threat even after he had been ousted from power, so in 1988, the church hired the two investigators to watch Broeker under the strictest secrecy.

"I hired these guys 24 years ago. There were only four of us who knew about it. Me, Miscavige, and those two," said Texas resident Marty Rathbun, who was Miscavige's top lieutenant before he left the church in 2004 and now speaks out critically about his former employer. He is not a party in the lawsuit.

Rathbun says he came to trust Marrick and Arnold as they began following Broeker around the country and even to Europe in ensuing years. According to the lawsuit, in their intense monitoring of Broeker, they "recorded his phone calls, culled through his trash, photographed and videotaped him, communicated with him under false pretenses and followed him wherever he went."

According to their attorney, Marrick and Arnold were able to record Broeker's home phone calls for more than a year after they managed to give him a gift of a cordless telephone through Marrick's father, who had befriended Broeker as part of the operation. (At that time, in the late 1980s, it was legal to remotely record such calls.)

But Marrick and Arnold claim that over time, The Broeker Operation, as it was called, took its toll, separating them from their families and making other job prospects less likely.

Rathbun said the two investigators were assured multiple times that their jobs with the church were permanent - even if the Broeker surveillance came to an end. According to their lawsuit, those assurances became a verbal contract, even if there was no written agreement to go along with it.

Marrick and Arnold were also asked to tail other targets, the lawsuit alleges, including Rathbun after his departure from the church. In 2009, they were sent to San Patricio County to make a surveillance plan of Rathbun's home in Ingleside on the Bay, near Corpus Christi.

Others monitored

In the early 1990s, the pair was asked to watch certain executives of the pharmaceutical firm Eli Lilly and Co. (Scientology is vocal in its opposition to psychiatric drugs manufactured by the firm.) One of these executives under their monitoring was a senior vice president named Mitch Daniels, who has gone on to become Indiana's governor, according to the lawsuit. Daniels declined to comment through his press secretary.

Another person targeted for monitoring was Scientology's former chief spokesman, Florida resident Mike Rinder, who left the church in 2007, according to the lawsuit. Rinder and Rathbun are part of a growing number of former church members who call themselves "independent Scientologists" and oppose Miscavige's leadership.

San Antonio attorney Ray Jeffrey said that he filed the case in San Patricio County because the surveillance of Rathbun occurred there. Broeker lives elsewhere, he says, Marrick is a Colorado resident, and Arnold lives in California.

"It's a multi-state action, and I would expect that Scientology might answer by trying to move it somewhere else or taking it to federal court," Jeffrey said. He filed a preliminary version of the lawsuit on July 29, and a more detailed amended complaint on Thursday. The church has until Oct. 1 to make an answer.

Leader rarely seen

While contract disputes often end in settlements, the lawsuit has the potential of bringing to a South Texas courtroom two men who rarely or never are seen in public. Jeffrey said that Broeker, who has remained out of sight since leaving Scientology after Hubbard's death, may be called as a witness. And Miscavige, who has not given a television interview since talking to ABC's Nightline in 1992, could be deposed.

Jeffrey said that despite the nature of their jobs, his clients conducted themselves professionally and paid taxes on their income - even though, until 2008, they were paid in cash. "The church literally deposited greenbacks in their bank accounts," he said.

In the past, Scientology has said that it does not hire private investigators, Jeffrey said. "Scientology has submitted affidavits insisting that private investigators work for attorneys and not for the church directly, and that David Miscavige had no knowledge of the work being done by those investigators," he said. But his clients tell another story.

"Our guys never had one substantive conversation with a lawyer in 25 years," Jeffrey said. "This was a personal project of David Miscavige. They always reported to the people under him - it was Marty Rathbun who hired them."

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