All of them, those in power, and those who want the power, would pamper us, if we agreed to overlook their crookedness by wilfully restricting our activities.
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|From Sun reports
The widow of an Air Florida pilot whose jet plunged into the Potomac got $300,000 in workers’ compensation benefits for her husband’s death—and the next day donated nearly half the money to the Church of Scientology.
Joanne Wheaton also invested much of the remaining payment in a firm operated by a Scientologist.
Larry Wheaton’s plane crashed Jan. 13, 1982, onto a crowded bridge in Washington, D.C., and then into the Potomac River. Only five of the 71 people aboard survived.
Wheaton and his wife were ardent Scientologists and had made sizable contributions to the sect before the crash. Wheaton, 34, who was earning $72,000 a year as an Air Florida pilot, left no will. His wife inherited their house in southwest Miami and a $142,000 life insurance policy.
The life insurance money was Joanne Wheaton’s to spend as she saw fit. But not so with the workers’ compensation benefits, a probate judge says.
“I was flabbergasted,” Dade Probate Judge Francis Christie said of learning that the workers’ compensation money had been spent.
Christie told The Miami Herald in a story published Thursday that the money was supposed to go into Wheaton’s estate to pay off any debts and at least part was supposed to be safeguarded until the couple’s two sons, Eli, 2, and Joshua, 8, turn 18.
Court records show Mrs. Wheaton got $300,000 on June 8, 1982, and the next day spent $299,400 this way:
□ $90,000 went to the Church of Scientology for church expansion.
□ $42,000 to the sect’s Library Donation Service, which places books about Scientology in public libraries
□ $8,000 to the building fund of the Learning Academy, a Scientology school in Miami.
□ $5,000 in gifts to Church of Scientology ministers.
□ $150,000 invested with MSR Inc., a Dade County firm owned by a Scientologist named Robert Almblad.
□ $10,000 in a certificate of deposit.
□ $4,000 for credit card debts left by her husband.
Joanne Wheaton said in an interview with The Herald that her lawyers never told her the workers’ compensation money wasn’t hers to spend.
“The funds I donated to the church were not supposed to have been donated,” she said. “It was a little flub on the part of one of the attorneys. I had not advised that by law, it had to go into the estate.”
Former Florida Attorney General Robert Shevin, appointed by the probate judge, filed suit Wednesday on behalf of Mrs. Wheaton and her two sons seeking return of the $150,000 invested in MSR and punitive damages.
The various entities of the Church of Scientology are not named. Shevin wrote them a letter threatening to sue, and $145,400 was returned.
The sect also excommunicated Almblad and another Scientologist, Kenneth McFarland, who was the sect’s deputy commander of international expansion at the time. Shevin says in the suit that both men coerced Mrs. Wheaton to give away the money.
Mrs. Wheaton also gave the sect at least $75,000 of her husband’s insurance policy. But since the policy was not a probatable asset, she was entitled to give that away.
Five months after the crash, Mrs. Wheaton and her two sons moved to Belleair. She remains a devoted Scientologist.
Contacted at her Belleair home Thursday evening, Mrs. Wheaton had no further comment.
Founded in 1964 by science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, the Church of Scientology offers counseling and courses designed to make a person “clear” of personal and spiritual problems.
With branches in London, Los Angeles and hundreds of cities throughout the world, the sect moved its retreat headquarters to Clearwater in 1975, when it purchased the Fort Harrison Hotel downtown.