SAN ANTONIO, Texas — Nearly 25 years ago, the Church of Scientology hired two former California cops to do a job.
Spy on Patrick D. Broeker.
Church officials painted Broeker as an errand boy for the late Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard. They said he had made off with $1.8 million and a cache of critically important Hubbard records.
Follow Broeker, they said. Watch him every minute. Report back frequently.
The private eyes did. Beginning in 1988 and continuing for a quarter of a century, Paul Marrick and Greg Arnold tracked Broeker from a California apartment to a cowboy town in Wyoming and even to the Czech Republic.
They spied on his girlfriends, rifled through his garbage and listened to his phone calls.
After 14 months, high-ranking church leader Marty Rathbun told Marrick and Arnold they had performed so well, the church would have work for them for the rest of their careers.
They were "part of the family," Rathbun told them.
The church started paying them a lump sum: $32,000 a month.
"We thought, 'Well, that sounds like a pretty good deal,' " said Marrick.
And the checks kept coming until this summer, when the church stopped paying.
Now, Marrick and Arnold are suing Scientology, claiming the church and its leader David Miscavige violated their long-ago verbal deal.
In a three-hour interview with the Tampa Bay Times in the office of their Texas lawyer, Ray Jeffrey, the investigators shared details of their top-secret work. They told a rollicking tale of espionage and described the expense to which Scientology went to gather intelligence on real and perceived enemies.
The investigators' lawyer says the church paid them between $10 million and $12 million. In addition to Broeker, they followed several other church targets, including a drug company executive who now is governor of Indiana — Mitch Daniels.
Brazen and invasive, the operations were financed by money from parishioners. The payments to the two detectives always stopped short of the $10,000 threshold that triggers notification to the IRS, the men said.
Responding to questions from the Times, the church acknowledged the men "provided various services" as independent contractors. But spokeswoman Karin Pouw described the lawsuit as "nothing more than a transparent shakedown effort.''
She characterized virtually their entire narrative — their tales of following Broeker, the sums they were paid, their accounts of dealings with church officials — as "inaccurate," without giving specifics.
The investigators never met Miscavige but say they were told he was calling the shots. Pouw said church lawyers supervised them and Miscavige had no involvement.
"Any allegations to the contrary are malicious fabrications and compete balderdash," Pouw said.
On Wednesday, the men said they kept notes, emails, audiotapes and photos documenting their pursuit of Broeker. The Times asked for the materials and they said they would consider the request. Hours later, settlement talks began and they declined further contact with the newspaper.
The men don't deny they had an unusual run. Apparently afraid of eavesdropping, the church insisted they report back in coded language. Both sides called Miscavige "the Duke." Broeker was "the guy" and later "the gardener" because he liked to bury things.
The detectives know where he is, but aren't saying.
They also came to discover something else.
Patrick Broeker was no errand boy.
• • •
L. Ron Hubbard spent the last years of his life moving around Southern California with Broeker and his wife, Annie, as his primary companions. In 1983, they settled at a 160-acre ranch in Creston, Calif., about 300 miles north of the church's International Base near Los Angeles.
At the time, the church was at war with the IRS over losing its tax-exempt status. It was a defendant in numerous lawsuits and was still reeling from a scandal that saw 11 church members, including Hubbard's wife, convicted of obstruction of justice and conspiracy.
At the ranch, Hubbard went into a self-imposed exile. His chief conduit to the outside world: Pat Broeker.
Broeker, who grew up near Niagara Falls and joined Scientology as a young man, demanded tight security, said Steve Pfauth, a former church staffer who worked as the ranch's chief caretaker. He also brought in truckloads of animals — horses, cows, buffalo, geese, ducks, chickens, llamas.
"He spent money like water,'' Pfauth said. "He had access to as much money as he wanted.''
After Hubbard died in 1986, church officers began to cut off Broeker's funds and demand that he keep a better accounting, Pfauth said. "And Pat didn't like doing accounting."
Then there was the question of who would succeed the founder. A signed Hubbard order appeared to elevate the Broekers to "loyal officers," outranking everyone else. But the church canceled the document, saying Hubbard never wrote or saw it. Miscavige, then just 26, emerged as the leader.
All this took two years to play out. Eventually, Annie Broeker moved to the International Base and the couple separated. Pat Broeker, then about 40, moved on.
As Broeker gradually moved his belongings to an apartment in Paso Robles, Marrick and Arnold joined a team of six private investigators who watched for traces of the $1.8 million or the never-before-seen writings by Hubbard. Rathbun, Miscavige's top deputy, called constantly for updates.
It was clear to the detectives that Broeker knew how to fly under the radar. He didn't have utility accounts in his name. Magazine subscriptions came to "Mike Walters" and "Mike Mitchell." The men learned that even Hubbard had called Broeker "007."
"He had the innate ability to hide in plain sight and not be found," Arnold said. It kept them on their toes.
If anything came up, the investigators were to call a special line at the International Base.
A sensor placed on Broeker's church-owned truck helped track his movements. When he left the ranch, church hands radioed to tell the private investigators in code: "Joe's going to St. Louis." When he returned, they reported, "The chicken's in the coop."
Marrick and Arnold rented the unit next to Broeker's apartment and outfitted it with surveillance gear. They got Marrick's father to befriend Broeker and give him a mobile phone — the vintage 1980s kind that could easily and legally be monitored with a police scanner.
They listened to his conversations, followed him on his dates with a local veterinarian and tailed him to classes at a nearby college in San Luis Obispo.
They listened to a call from Gerald Feffer, one of Scientology's Washington, D.C., lawyers. Feffer wanted Broeker to hand over the church's pickup.
Broeker expressed anger at being pushed aside in "a hostile takeover." He said if he had money he would use it to regain his position with the church, but was conflicted because he did not want to hurt any of his friends still inside. He vowed to continue Hubbard's research on his own.
Through it all, the detectives saw little evidence that Broeker had either money or important church documents.
But they came to know intimate details about his life. By listening to his phone calls, they knew his relationship with the veterinarian was headed for a breakup.
In late 1989, he packed up a Ryder van and left town, which meant that Marrick and Arnold would have to relocate, too. The church checks kept coming.
The detectives suspected Broeker was headed to his parents' house in Wyoming.
• • •
The two ex-California cops looked nothing like the cowboys in Cheyenne.
They blended in by growing beards. Marrick became a real estate appraiser on the side because it gave him a good cover story.
They made a deal with the local trash hauler to get access to Broeker's garbage, an arrangement they said is common in the disposal industry.
"It's valuable," Marrick said of garbage collections. "We know exactly how you're living your life."
Many times as they sorted through Broeker's trash, they found empty plastic bags caked in mud as if they'd been buried in the ground. It appeared he had dug up the bags but the investigators never knew what had been inside them.
They chuckle at television portrayals of private investigators who camp out in front of homes and tail people closely.
"The best way to follow somebody is not to follow them at all — to know where they're going ahead of time or to have a pretty good idea of it," Marrick said. The investigators say it appeared Broeker never realized he was being followed.
From a distance they used spotting scopes to watch Broeker come and go from his parents' home. They followed him to a local college and discovered he was taking classes in biology. He got a job at a hospital in Fort Collins, Colo., about 50 miles south of Cheyenne.
They saw him strike up a relationship with a new girlfriend, and they knew when he slept over.
In June 1990, the Los Angeles Times published a six-day series on Scientology that showed Broeker had enjoyed a much higher standing in the church than Marrick and Arnold had been led to believe. The so-called errand boy had actually been a rival of Miscavige in a power struggle over Hubbard's writings.
Over time, they would learn much more about Broeker's influence. In the last years of Hubbard's life, Broeker had kept the founder safely secluded. The trust Hubbard placed in him was a privilege few others enjoyed. It had been Broeker who carried Hubbard's voice to the church, and he had been one of the key speakers announcing Hubbard's death.
What made Broeker important later was the possibility he possessed original writings Hubbard produced while in isolation.
"There was concern that materials from the founder may have been taken," spokeswoman Pouw said. "To the church, those materials are priceless."
That portrayal made more sense, Marrick said. "Because who would watch a house boy, even for that period of time, unless he was a much bigger threat or more valuable in some other fashion?"
Said Arnold: "It blew us away."
Two years into their assignment, both men began to believe that the church considered Broeker a threat to Miscavige's leadership. The church denies Miscavige's authority was ever in question.
The detectives also came to think about Broeker in a new way. He went to school, held down jobs, lived modestly and treated his female companions honorably. People enjoyed his company.
None of that changed how they viewed their job, they said. They weren't Scientologists, but they sympathized with the notion that an underdog church was fighting for its religious freedom. The work also paid the bills.
"We felt good about doing what we were doing because we thought we were doing the church a service," Arnold said.
Along the way they helped with other investigations. The church was in a bitter fight with Eli Lilly & Co., makers of Prozac. Scientology opposes using drugs to treat mental conditions. Mitch Daniels, then a top Lilly executive, had said Scientology "is no church."
Marrick and Arnold staked out Daniels' house in Indianapolis and took down the tag numbers of his visitors.
"We saw him watching TV through his front window," Arnold said. "We watched his … daughters. They were young then. It was everyday living. Nothing came of the investigation."
Daniels' press aide said last week the governor had no comment about the surveillance. Pouw also declined to comment.
Every month, the church sent $32,000 in cashier's checks to the investigators' Wyoming post office box. Both men's pay and expenses came out of that.
Then one day everything changed again. Broeker left Cheyenne in the middle of the night and they had no idea where he was.
• • •
Marrick and Arnold searched the garbage of Broeker's girlfriend in Fort Collins. They found a scrap of paper with an address scrawled on it.
He had moved 500 miles due east to Council Bluffs, Iowa. He was attending Creighton University School of Medicine in neighboring Omaha, the investigators said.
Two years later, in 1997, he suddenly stopped going to school and began to engage in what his followers termed "covert" behavior. They found indications in his trash that he was using aliases and buying security encryption software. He was in contact with former church spokesman Robert Vaughn Young, who had become a vocal critic.
Meanwhile, anti-Scientology sentiment was heating up on the Internet. Was it luring Broeker in? Was he plotting a return? "Maybe he was going back into his 007 mode," Arnold said.
Through information brokers, the two investigators obtained Broeker's phone records, an action they said falls into a "gray area" and would not be legal today. They spotted a call to an Ohio hotel where several high-profile Scientology critics had met.
Later, they returned to Cheyenne, following a tip that Broeker and Young would be meeting there. The investigators followed the two men to an Applebee's restaurant, where Arnold disguised himself and sat behind them in the next booth. He heard them talking critically about Miscavige and Scientology.
"Obviously, the church was still on their mind and Pat was pretty angry," Arnold said.
Broeker's involvement with the dissidents was short-lived. He moved to the Czech Republic.
• • •
At the church's direction, Marrick and Arnold worked on other investigations in the United States while keeping tabs on Broeker from afar using foreign detectives. Church officials reduced their payments.
The men said Broeker spent nearly 10 years in the Czech Republic, going to medical school and working as an English teacher and a medical transcriber. He lived modestly and stayed busy.
By the time he returned to the United States in late 2007, Marrick and Arnold were sensing upheaval in the world of Scientology.
The church's longtime spokesman Mike Rinder had left the staff that year and Rathbun had walked away in 2004. Both men kept low profiles but other defectors were beginning to speak out, including Miscavige's niece, Jenna, and Hollywood actor Jason Beghe.
"It was just like rapid fire, one thing after another," Arnold said.
They saw the potential for "a perfect storm" if Rathbun, Rinder and Broeker ever got together to challenge Miscavige. They said they warned the church.
In 2009, Rathbun, Rinder and dozens of other defectors spoke to the Times, telling of violence and abuse at the hands of Miscavige, charges the church denied.
Also among Rathbun's revelations: A pair of church investigators had tailed Broeker for more than two decades.
After all the years the detectives had spent living in secret and leading double lives, Rathbun of all people had blown their cover.
Still, they continued to keep an eye on Broeker while also helping to surveil Rathbun and Rinder. The church increased their pay to $9,600 a week, or about $500,000 a year for both of them, which included expenses.
Said Marrick: "We were sitting here thinking, 'Wait a second. So now we're going to surveil the guy that hired us? … This is not what we really hired on for. Everything's changed.' "
Spokeswoman Pouw said the church seeks intelligence on Rathbun and Rinder because it has "an ongoing program to eliminate all relationships" with people who worked with or were associated with them.
The detectives traveled to Rathbun's neighborhood near Corpus Christi, Texas, to help the church plot a strategy for following him. They went through Rinder's trash and rented a place near his Denver apartment, setting up a camera with night vision and remote controls. It allowed them to keep an eye on Rinder while simultaneously watching Broeker in a city they declined to name.
"Here we were watching these three people, all spies in their own right," Arnold said. "So we had to be ultra careful."
They said they were bothered when the church set out to overtly harass Rathbun by constantly tailing and videotaping him and camping outside his house. And they didn't like the church's furious reaction when the "apostate" Rinder wrote to his mother, still a church member. A guy couldn't write to his mother?
And now that the Broeker operation had been exposed, they got discouraging signals from the church. Their contact, Linda Hamel, told them at one point: "We're not sure what the Duke's going to do."
"My heart dropped," Arnold said. Would the church really cut them loose? Like Marrick, Arnold is 53, married, with two kids.
"I was working on my honeymoon and I've missed some Christmases," Marrick said.
"Nobody knew what we did — family members, my mother, my brother," Arnold said. "They to this day don't know who I worked for. … They knew I was a private investigator but that's the extent of it."
They said the church stopped their payments this spring.
Meantime, they say, 007 lives quietly, somewhere in the United States. He is 64.
The Times couldn't find Pat Broeker. His sister, Penny Byers of Cheyenne, said she'd pass on a message.
But she added: "He just wants to be left alone."