Danny Masterson Accusers Allege Church of Scientology Is Mob-Like 'Criminal Enterprise'

Amended civil lawsuit characterizes church as a racketeering outfit led by boss David Miscavige, who "derives significant financial benefit from Scientology’s criminal and unlawful activity"

Los Angeles Magazine/December 28, 2023

By Michele McPhee

An amended civil lawsuit targeting the Church of Scientology details what some former members describe as a "criminal enterprise" that uses ill-gotten monies to garner influence that protects abusers and intimidates anyone who speaks out against Scientology.

The 104-page suit argues Scientology is nothing more than a mob-like racketeering outfit whose leader David Miscavige is akin to a Mafia boss who "derives significant financial benefit from Scientology’s criminal and unlawful activity."

The amended civil complaint was first filed in 2019 by four women who accused Danny Masterson, a prominent Scientologist and former That '70s Show star, of raping them, a suit that came a year before the actor was criminally charged by the LAPD in June 2020.

After two trials — one that ended in a hung jury — a jury found Masterson guilty of forcibly raping two women at his Hollywood Hills home two decades ago. He has been in prison since the jury's decision in May.

The latest complaint details continued threats against Masterson's accusers that the plaintiffs' lawyers argue are further evidence that Scientology uses its profits from what the suit describes as, "fraud, human trafficking, identify theft, and money laundering to fill its coffers and enrich its leadership," who then then in turn hire people to torment anyone who speaks out against the Church.

The suit accuses Miscavige of enforcing what the suit calls Scientology's self-described governing philosophy: “MAKE MONEY. MAKE MORE MONEY. MAKE OTHER PEOPLE PRODUCE SO AS TO MAKE MORE MONEY" — a system that relies on its high-profile members, celebrities like Masterson, who are then protected at all costs.

"Scientology’s criminal enterprise recruits celebrities to serve as its public ambassadors. Defendant Daniel Masterson is one such celebrity," the suit states. "During Masterson’s long association with Scientology, Scientology’s criminal enterprise used its resources to assist Masterson with his burgeoning acting career and provided him preferential treatment within Scientology."

That preferential treatment, according to the suit, includes intimidating the women who accused him of rape with a terrifying campaign of relentless harassment that included the murder of one woman's dog, threatening phone calls, being followed to their children's playgrounds, where they were intimidated by strangers.

The new complaint adds additional allegations from another accuser, actress and writer Tricia Vessey, who testified in Masterson’s first criminal trial that she was drugged and raped after a wrap party for Too Pure, a movie the duo appeared in together. Vessey, who was not affiliated with Scientology, refused to testify at the second criminal trial because she was too afraid, the suit claims.

"The People of the State of California requested that Plaintiff Vessey testify at the second of Defendant Masterson’s criminal trials," according to the complaint, which says the actress declined, "out of fear of additional harassment."

But the harassment didn't stop there, the suit states. Scientologists and "and their agents" went to Vessey's rural home repeatedly and "trespassed on her property to take photos and look into her windows, as well as illegally searched both her property and her electronic devices." According to the complaint, the LAPD confirmed her electronic devices were compromised.

Vessey was not the only one followed, threatened and harassed, even after Masterson's conviction, the suit claims. One woman left a doctor's appointment with her children in October to find a strange man who "exited a car with no license plates," and then "screamed at and threatened them." When the family reached their car, "she found the doors unlocked." Another woman was blackmailed that if she didn't recant her accusations against Masterson, nude photos would be released.

The suit details nonstop aggravation: hacked bank accounts, accusers' having their health insurance coverage compromised, stolen mail, grocery deliveries being tampered with — all sensational, but familiar, tactics that have been employed by Scientology leaders at the highest levels for decades, according to the complaint and a review of court records.

Hubbard's third wife Mary Sue, the suit reminds the court, was sentenced to four years in prison in 1983 after she, and 11 other Scientologists, were found guilty of conspiracy connected to planting Scientology spies in government agencies, stealing government documents and bugging at least one government meeting. In a bombshell sentencing memo, the government described Scientology leaders as retaliating against "anyone who did not agree with them."

The government wrote in the memo that Scientology employed spy craft aimed at those the Church "considered to be an enemy," a tactic prosecutors say the Hubbards referred to as "the so-called fair game doctrine.”

The Hubbards' targets, the government says, were subjected to high-tech surveillance that included: "miniature transmitters, lock picks, secret codes, forged credentials, and any other device they found necessary to carry out their conspiratorial schemes."

More recently, those conspiratorial schemes, the new civil suit says, includes recruiting celebrities like Tom Cruise and others into their fold. "Hubbard encouraged Scientologists to target celebrities as 'quarry' and recruit them to Scientology, including publishing a list of celebrities and promising any member who was able to 'bring one home' a 'small plaque as a reward.'"

Celebrities, like Masterson, were high-earning members who were then shielded from criminal charges, the suit argues. "Miscavige worked with Defendant Masterson to keep his sexual assault victims from reporting their abuse and mobilized an aggressive harassment campaign against the victims once the sexual assaults were disclosed," the accusers' lawyers wrote in the new complaint.

The abuse started before Masterson's arrest, the accusers say, and continued after his first trial ended in late 2022 with the hung jury; and even after he was convicted and then sentenced to 30 years to life imprisonment this September.

The suit comes the same week Masterson was moved to a Kern County state prison Wednesday, per California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitations.

The civil trial to address the new complaint was tentatively set for September 22, 2025 after a judge cited the timeline that will allow for Masterson’s appeal of his criminal convictions. The suit does not specify damages.

Masterson's lawyers insist he is an innocent man and repeatedly point to the lack of physical evidence tying him to the decades-old crimes. His attorney Philip Cohen unsuccessfully attempted to keep Scientology's reputed actions out of his client's second trial, arguing that airing the Church's scandal-plagued history could prejudice the jurors. The religion is expected to take a central role in his appeal.

A media representative for the Church of Scientology did not immediately return a request for comment.

Mary Sue Hubbard died at her Los Angeles home in 2002, and her ashes were scattered at sea. Miscavige's wife Shelley was reported missing in 2013. After Masterson's first trial ended in a hung jury, questions were raised about her whereabouts by Leah Remini, a former Scientologist who said she reported her friend missing to disgraced former LAPD Captain Cory Polka.

The LAPD says detectives made contact with Shelley Miscavige in 2014.

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