Los Angeles - A man claims the Church of Scientology forced him to work as a "virtual slave" for 16 years at jobs ranging from washing pots and pans to restoring old films produced by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard. John Lindstein says he was kept "busy, poor, tired, and uninformed" by Church of Scientology leader David Miscavige at the church's ranch in Hemet, and feared that "things would get even worse if he did not work as ordered."
Lindstein's Superior Court complaint alleges human trafficking and violations of hour and wage laws at the church's "Gold Ranch" compound near Hemet, a semirural area east-southeast of Los Angeles.
Lindstein says that from 1990 until 2006, starting when he was just 8 years old, he "performed this work as a virtual slave, working 16 to 24 hours days with no sleep, no time off and no personal freedom" at Gold Base, a mysterious and once-secret headquarters that "resembles a prison camp," with razor wire, security guard patrols, surveillance posts and three roll calls each day.
By age 16, Lindstein says, he was working for Golden Era Productions, Scientology's film production company, restoring Hubbard's films from the 1970s. He says he often worked 24-hour days at the "tedious, frame-by-frame work that would normally cost more than $400,000 per movie to accomplish at industry rates."
Lindstein and his crew of five were paid $50 per week, he says.
Lindstein says Miscavige and others "intentionally, consciously and wrongfully made a tactical decision to ignore labor laws, take [their] chances with a compliant and intimidated work force, and hope that the running of the statute of limitations would in the long run save [them] millions of dollars."
Lindstein says that Miscavige "runs the Scientology enterprise with an iron fist, according to his own rules, and enjoys the lifestyle and job benefits of royalty while those at the bottom of the food chain live like slaves and inmates."
Those who tried to escape from Gold Ranch and were caught were assigned to the "Rehabilitation Project Force," in which workers faced "a brutal regime of manual labor, have no freedom of movement and are subjected to almost total deprivations of personal liberties," according to the complaint.
Church of Scientology spokeswoman Karin Pouw said the church would not comment on the allegations.
"The complaint filed by John Lindstein against the Church of Scientology International and others has not been served," Pouw said. "We do not comment on cases to which we are not a party."
In his complaint, Lindstein says he was eventually "pushed to his breaking point and he found a way out."
He says he has since been "declared an enemy of Scientology, given a large illegal bill for his purported scientology training, and cut off from friends and family who are still under the control of the Scientology enterprise."
Lindstein wants the church to pay him at least minimum wage for his years of work. He is represented by Barry Von Sickle of Roseville, California.