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Church of Scientology paid two private investigators millions to trail David Miscavige's rival, lawsuit claims

Church of Scientology leader David Miscavige ordered surveillance on one of his former church rivals in a secret operation that lasted 25 years and ate up millions in church funds, a Texas lawsuit alleges.

The two private investigators who filed the suit say the church hired them to conduct intensive surveillance on Pat Broeker, a church leader who worked closely with Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard in the 1970s and '80s. Broeker was ousted by Miscavige in a power struggle after Hubbard's 1986 death.

Paul Marrick and Greg Arnold allege that five years into the "Broeker Operation" the church agreed to employ them permanently but stopped making payments early this year. The two are seeking damages, alleging the church made false representations and breached its agreement with them.

Scientology spokeswoman Karin Pouw said the church had no comment because it had not seen the petition, which was filed Thursday in San Patricio County, near Corpus Christi.

The Broeker Operation was first revealed in 2009 when former church executives Marty Rathbun and Mike Rinder told the Tampa Bay Times that Miscavige wanted to know about Broeker's every move after he continued his life outside the church. The lawsuit not only corroborates their story but fills in extraordinary details about the operation.

Marrick of Colorado and Arnold of California say that, at the church's direction, they followed Broeker as he moved around the United States and overseas. The lawsuit says they recorded his phone calls, picked through his trash, took photos and video of him and "communicated with him under false pretenses."

Their attorney, Ray Jeffrey, said the church paid the men a total of $10 million to $12 million over the 25 years. That works out to between $33,000 and $40,000 a month.

Said Jeffrey: "You have a completely secret operation that only a small handful of people knew about, with nothing ever in writing: no contracts in writing, no invoices, no anything."

Jeffrey said the church paid the men for years by depositing cash into their bank accounts each month. Later, they were told to start a corporation, and the payments were sent to the corporate account.

He said Marrick and Arnold paid income taxes on the money and conducted their investigations professionally.

Miscavige received regular briefings, Jeffrey said. And whenever the investigators found anything of interest in Broeker's trash, they sent it to the church.

The men also did other work for Scientology, including surveillance of Mitch Daniels, the Indiana governor, the lawsuit says.

That operation allegedly took place in the early 1990s when the church was at war with the pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly and Co. At the time, Daniels was the company's senior vice president.

Marrick and Arnold also say they have conducted surveillance on Rathbun and Rinder. Rathbun left the church in 2004 and Rinder in 2007. They have since been leaders in a growing movement of "independent" Scientologists who oppose the way Miscavige is running the church.

Marrick and Arnold know where Broeker is. But Jeffrey said he wants to "reach out" to him with "some level of sensitivity" before revealing anything publicly.

"He could very well be a witness," Jeffrey said. "Although to the best of our knowledge he wasn't aware that he was being surveilled for 25 years."

For years, the church has insisted that it doesn't hire private investigators. It has said its attorneys sometimes hire them as part of standard litigation practice to protect the church's interests.

But the lawsuit says Marrick and Arnold dealt directly with Miscavige's staff, not attorneys, and that Miscavige feared Broeker might one day try to reclaim his position.

Broeker left quietly and was not a threat to Scientology, Jeffrey said. The surveillance operation "just seems inconsistent with their mission."

Five years into the operation, the two investigators began to worry about whether anyone would hire them when the church no longer needed them.

They say they were told the church would deny any knowledge of them or their work if anyone asked.

The two men began looking for jobs in their former field, law enforcement. But when Miscavige's staff learned about it, they told the men not to leave — that the church would pay them permanently, even if the Broeker Operation ended.

According to the lawsuit, the church said it would treat the men better than if they had law enforcement careers.

The lawsuit argues that the church is legally bound to those words, even if there was no written contract.

Jeffrey said the church's payments to the men became irregular, then stopped completely early this year.

He said they contacted him after he represented Debbie Cook, a top Scientology executive who spoke out against Miscavige in January and February. The church sued Cook but later reached a settlement that requires her never to speak of Scientology again.

Joe Childs can be reached at childs@tampabay.com. Thomas C. Tobin can be reached at tobin@tampabay.com.

Church of Scientology paid two private investigators millions to trail David Miscavige's rival, lawsuit claims 09/21/12 [Last modified: Friday, September 21, 2012 11:22pm]
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