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Private investigators' lawsuit against Church of Scientology comes to an end

In a quiet end to a colorful and revealing case, two private investigators have ended their Texas lawsuit against the Church of Scientology and its leader, David Miscavige.

The investigators alleged in the suit that Miscavige breached a secret handshake agreement made at his direction in 1989. They said the church had promised to retain them their entire careers, starting with a surveillance operation on former church officer Patrick D. Broeker.

Broeker, who worked closely with Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard in the final years of his life, was seen as a potential rival to Miscavige after Hubbard died in 1986. He quietly disappeared under pressure from the church and Miscavige emerged as leader, a position he still holds today.

Paul Marrick and Greg Arnold followed Broeker for 25 years as he moved from California to Wyoming to Nebraska to the Czech Republic and back to the United States.

When the church stopped paying them this summer, they said they were left in a lurch, unable to tell would-be employers what they'd been doing for the last 25 years. Before signing on with the church, the two men had worked as small town police officers in their 20s. They are not Scientologists.

The investigators filed their lawsuit Sept. 20 but started settlement talks with the church about a week later, just after a three-hour interview with the Tampa Bay Times. On Nov. 15, they filed a motion to dismiss the case. Texas District Court Judge Janna Whatley granted the motion the same day.

Court documents make no mention of a settlement. The Times contacted Marrick, Arnold, their attorney and church spokeswoman Karin Pouw, asking if a settlement was reached. None of them responded.

Throughout their quarter-century assignment, Marrick and Arnold tracked Broeker's daily movements, searched his garbage and kept tabs on his relationships with women. They nicknamed him "the gardener," concluding that the mud-caked plastic bags in his trash meant he was burying things. They reported back to the church and were paid in cash and cashier's checks sent directly to their accounts.

Their lawyer, Ray Jeffrey of Bulverde, Texas, estimated the church paid them $10 million to $12 million total.

Meanwhile, the men said, they led regular middle-class lives, using large portions of the church payments for expenses such as travel and equipment. Marrick lives in Colorado and Arnold in California. Each is 53, married and has two children.

Their story showed how far the church is willing to go to watch those it perceives as enemies.

In a statement to the Times in September, Pouw acknowledged that the two men "provided various services" on behalf of church lawyers. But she called their lawsuit "a transparent shakedown effort" and said their story is a "ridiculous reinvention of history" based on lies and exaggerations.

The church found itself in a similar position early this year when former church executive Debbie Cook gave damaging testimony in another Texas case. She said she was held against her will and witnessed Miscavige physically attack and abuse church staffers.

Pouw called Cook's sworn statements "entirely false," and the church reached a settlement with Cook and her husband that included a confidentiality agreement.

Financially strapped before the settlement, the couple moved to an island in the Caribbean a few weeks later.

Private investigators' lawsuit against Church of Scientology comes to an end 11/30/12 [Last modified: Friday, November 30, 2012 11:23pm]
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