Marty Rathbun said he participated in a criminal act to protect the church against a possible security breach.
Longtime executive Terri Gamboa and her husband, Fernando, abandoned their posts in January 1990, setting off what Rathbun called a "seven-alert fire.''
Terri Gamboa was executive director of Author Services Inc., the independent corporation set up by founder L. Ron Hubbard to control rights to his intellectual properties.
David Miscavige, the leader of the church, wanted to know if she had access to a safe containing Hubbard's estate documents. Had she made off with anything sensitive?
Miscavige called Rathbun and other executives into the Author Services offices. Rathbun said Miscavige told him: "Marty, you have got to find out whether she got those documents.''
Rathbun flew to Nashville, where private investigators had tracked the Gamboas to a hotel. Five men accompanied Rathbun. They could see Terri's briefcase through the windows of her Pathfinder.
Said Rathbun: "The mission was this: They were going to gather into a room and give her what's called an SRA.''
Rathbun said it's a Miscavige term, Severe Reality Adjustment. Get in somebody's face and scream hard enough that "you adjust their reality.''
"She would be so scared, she would never think of messing with the church,'' Rathbun said.
During the SRA, Rathbun went to another room and signaled the PI, whose name he said he can't remember, to break into the Pathfinder and get the briefcase. As he watched from the window, Rathbun heard approaching footsteps. Terri.
"Sure enough she comes storming down the hall and toward the room,'' Rathbun said. "I run over to the window, I tell the guy, 'Beat it.' He runs off with the briefcase.''
Rathbun said the PI ran to a lighted phone booth, found no estate documents in the briefcase and returned it to the Pathfinder.
Terri Gamboa declined an interview request.
Responding to Rathbun's account, church spokesman Tommy Davis wrote: If Rathbun used an investigator to "abuse poor innocent people,'' Rathbun is to blame. Other church officials were not involved.
Kurt Weiland, a top official for 20 years in the church's intelligence division, said that if Rathbun helped break into a vehicle, it was a violation of church policy. Staff and investigators working for the church must "abide by the law of the land at all times, no matter what.''