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Lawyer says Church of Scientology is waging campaign to 'frame' him

Title: Lawyer says Church of Scientology is waging campaign to 'frame' him
Date: Monday, 3 September 1984
Publisher: New York Times
Author: Robert Lindsey
Main source: link (144 KiB)
Alternate and/or complementary: Reprint in Sarasota Herald-Tribune,

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LOS ANGELES — Michael J. Flynn, a Boston lawyer, was piloting a light aircraft toward South Bend, Ind., in October 1979 when its engine quit mysteriously at 8,500 feet. After making an emergency landing, he said he found several quarts of water in the fuel tank.

Since then, Mr. Flynn, who has led a legal battle against the Church of Scientology, a group that has long been the subject of Government investigations, says he has been followed by as many as four carloads of private detectives at once, his office has been burgled, and his clients have received anonymous messages asserting that he was a drug dealer involved with organized crime.

Most recently, Eugene M. Ingram, a private investigator for the Church of Scientology who was discharged from the Los Angeles Police Department in 1981, has given the Federal authorities an affidavit signed by a citizen of the United Arab Emirates who asserts that he once collaborated with Mr. Flynn to pass a forged $2 million check.

In an interview, Mr. Flynn, who in the past five years has filed 20 lawsuits against the church on behalf of former members and has himself been sued 13 times by the church, said: "It's an outrageous attempt by the church to frame me. They've been traveling around the country giving press conferences about me. What they say is 100 percent false."

$300 Fees to Church

The Church of Scientology calls itself a "new religion," one not based on the worship of a god but which says it is able to make people happy through a counseling system called auditing. Clients pay Scientology as much as $300 an hour to be audited by a therapist using a crude tool called an E Meter to measure their emotional responses to questions, a process that is said to enhance their ability to think clearly and control their thoughts and emotions.

Now headquartered in Los Angeles and Clearwater, Fla., the church was organized more than 25 years ago by L. Ron Hubbard, a science fiction writer who has not been seen in public since 1980. Church publicists say it has a membership of six million people, although dissident former members say the number is less than 100,000.

In July, The New York Times reported that several former high officials of the church who were disenchanted with Mr. Hubbard had admitted helping him divert more than $100 million in church funds to foreign bank accounts he controlled.

Many of these same former officials said in interviews that they believed that the church had fabricated the evidence purporting to implicate Mr. Flynn in forgery in an effort to silence his legal attacks against their organization. "He was our No. 1 enemy," said Laurel Sullivan, a former senior official.

"We were always trying to set up an operation against Michael."

Mr. Flynn, a 40-year-old lawyer who has practiced in Boston since 1972, says he has spent more than $400,000 of his own money on legal battles with the Church of Scientology that began in 1979 after he agreed to represent a former church member who wanted a refund of money she had paid for Scientology auditing courses.

Purported Death Threats

He said the church had decided she was a traitor to its cause and revealed intimate details of her life that she had told in confidental auditing sessions. Mr. Flynn pressed forward with the case and began to represent other former Scientologists. He said he then began to receive death threats, to be badgered by private detectives and to be the target of spurious lawsuits and of complaints to the local bar assocation.

Mr. Flynn acknowledged that if he was victorious in some of his lawsuits against the church he would profit handsomely from his legal battle against it, but said he was not doing it for the money, but "because I think they are fascist bullies."

Miss Sullivan and other former officials compared the allegations that Mr. Flynn had forged a check to efforts that they said they had worked on while still in the church to smear Paulette Cooper, a free-lance writer who wrote "The Scandal of Scientology, " a 1970 book critical of the organization.

In a telphone interview, Miss Cooper said she had unknowingly agreed to allow an agent of the church to become her roommate in 1972. The roommate, she said, then stole some of her stationery, with her fingerprints on it, and sent bomb threats to the church. The F.B.I. traced the stationery to her, and she was indicted on charges of threatening to bomb a church facility.

The Justice Department subsequently abandoned the prosecution, she said, "under condition that I undergo psychiatric treatment."

F.B.I. Raids on Church

In 1977, F.B.I. agents raided Scientology facilities here and in Washington and found documents showing, they said, that the organization, in a project called "Operation Freakout," had mounted an effort to have her imprisoned or driven insane.

In the interview, Miss Cooper said she had received "many" death threats from agents of the church and had been sued by it 19 times."And now they're trying to do the same thing they did to me to Michael Flynn," she said.

In January full-page advertisements were placed in The New York Times, The Boston Globe and other publications by Mr. Ingram, the private investigator, who was discharged by the police in 1981 after being brought up on departmental charges of pimping, pandering, conspiring to run a house of prostitution and protecting drug dealers. Criminal charges against Mr. Ingram were dismissed in 1982 for lack of evidence, Los Angeles police officials say.

The advertisements offered a $100,000 reward for information that would help determine who presented a forged $2 million check in June 1982 at the Bank of New England in Boston drawn on an E. F. Hutton Cash Reserve Management Account in the name of Mr. Hubbard. Because a teller questioned the validity of the check, it was not cashed.

Last month, Mr. Ingram and officials of the church called news conferences in several cities around the country and announced they had solved the mystery. They asserted that they had obtained evidence proving that the check had been forged by Mr. Flynn.

Allegations of Forgery

They gave Federal officials here and in Boston a 29-page affidavit signed by Ala Tamimi, a citizen of the United Arab Emirates, that offered in great detail a purported account of how he had been recruited by Mr. Flynn to pass the forged check for $400,000 and then panicked and left it at the bank when the teller balked at cashing it.

Brackett Denniston, an assistant United States attorney in Boston, acknowledged that representatives of the Church of Scientology had asked his office to investigate the allegations but refused to discuss its status. Mr. Denniston, when asked about Mr. Tamimi, said he was in jail in Italy and under indictment in Boston on charges of mail fraud, wire fraud and perjury in connection with a scheme to fraudulently obtain fees in advance for arranging millions of dollars in loans that never materialized.

After the affidavits were submitted as evidence in a court here, in one of the dozens of actions involving the organization, Judge Paul G. Breckenridge of Superior Court assailed the church's attorneys on Aug. 2 for "totally unprofessional" conduct and called the material "garbage."