Tony Ortega recently published an extraordinary letter. Written by Los Angeles attorney Graham Berry to long-time Scientology attorney Kendrick Moxon, the letter concerns Sean Henderson who became yet another victim of Scientology’s ongoing credit card and loan scheme.
In this scheme Scientology is targeting older people who were once in the Church of Scientology but left decades ago. Once these people are contacted, Scientology salespeople offer them the inducement of a free airplane ticket and hotel accommodations to come to Los Angeles and talk to the Church of Scientology. These inducements are a pretext; once these people arrive in Los Angeles they are pressured by Scientology salespeople to go into heavy credit card and loan debt for Scientology courses and products.
The techniques used in credit card/loan scheme reveal that Scientology salespeople appear to have expert knowledge of how to manipulate certain credit unions, credit card companies, and banks in order to instantly get their victims approved for large lines of credit. Once approved, these lines of credited are instantly transferred into Scientology’s bank accounts. The net effect of this predatory — and likely criminal — financial scheme is to saddle older people with heavy debt at high rates of interest.
Ortega published Berry’s letter to Moxon concerning Sean Henderson. We reprint Berry’s letter as it pertains to Scientology, credit card fraud, elder abuse, and the general pattern of financial predation for which the Church of Scientology is infamous.
Here is Graham Berry’s letter:
Mr. Sean Henderson was once employed by the church for a short period of time, but he left approximately 26 years ago without completing a proper “routing out.” Having “blown,” he was ineligible for further course-work and auditing without completing required rehabilitation such as his “A to E.”
After “blowing” from the Church in approximately 1992 Mr. Henderson lived with a girlfriend for 13 years, and after their break-up he continued living in a house which they had bought together, although his name was not on the title. In 2016 he moved out. The house was sold. He received nothing from the sale.
Thereafter, Mr. Henderson moved to the big island of Hawaii where he worked clearing land and planting trees. Desirous of owning his own piece of land there he accumulated some savings of approximately $14,000.00 to which he was able to add a $10,000.00 inheritance from his grandmother’s estate. He found a property listed for $27,000.00. Mr. Henderson negotiated a sale price of $24,000.00 and opened an escrow with a down payment of $500.00. Escrow was due to close November 24, 2019. However, he was continuing to suffer from bouts of depression.
At the very beginning of October 2018, Mr. Henderson was surprised to learn that a “Cassie” had left a note on the door of his brother’s house in Chino, CA. Since he did not recall knowing a California Cassie, he called the telephone number and was connected to Cassie at the Church of Scientology Los Angeles Org. He said he was not interested in Scientology but both Cassie, and later, Sharee persisted. He received repeated telephone calls and voicemails from them at the LA Org. He had been “off-lines” for 26 years. During that time, he had called the church a few times to request it to remove his name from its data and mailing lists because he did not want to continue receiving mail from the Church and related entities. Mr. Henderson was an “illegal PC” and the Church should have known it. Certainly, he was not interested in any further participation in the Church.
When the Church contacted Mr. Henderson in October 2018, he had been abusing alcohol and smoking cannabis. He was depressed, impressionable, and pliable. The Church used its “Hard Sell” on Mr. Henderson. He was told that it was now “The Golden Age of Tech II” and that he could be “Clear” in three months. Mr. Henderson informed the caller that he could not afford it. He said he earned only a minimal income of $500.00 per month, was on food stamps and saving for his purchase of some land which was in escrow. Undeterred, the Church representative offered Mr. Henderson a round trip air ticket to Los Angeles at Church expense, and to accommodate him there at Church expense, and to feed him there at Church expense, so that he could go Clear. Mr. Henderson would later wonder how or why he finally agreed to go. Maybe he was just plain curious. Anyway, Mr. Henderson was flown from Hawaii to Los Angeles on October 9, 2018.
The Church had arranged for an Uber car to drive him to the LA Org on L. Ron Hubbard Way. When they entered the Org there were about 20 people standing around. A shout went up, “Sean Henderson’s back and we’re happy to have him here.” They told him how “they were helping people in the world and they wanted him to be a part of it.”
Mr. Henderson would be in Los Angeles for nearly three weeks. The first week the Church paid for his accommodation at its Scientology Crest Hotel near the Scientology Celebrity Center in East Hollywood. At the end of the first week the Crest Hotel informed Mr. Henderson that he would have to vacate because there was no more money on account. He immediately spoke with his handlers at the LA Org who informed him that he now had to pay for everything. When Mr. Henderson unsuccessfully objected to Sharee, she said to Cassie, “he should have been ‘R factored’ when he agreed to stay.” Apparently meaning that when Mr. Henderson agreed to stay longer in Los Angeles he should have been informed [or ‘reality factored’] that he had to take over the payment of his accommodation and food expenses. Later, also contrary to the Church’s representations, Mr. Henderson had to pay for his return ticket to Hawaii.
Mr. Henderson expected that he would go “on course” to go Clear as soon as he arrived in Los Angeles. He had not been informed that because of his use of alcohol and cannabis use back in Hawaii he was not “sessionable” and there would be a dry-out period before he could go “on course.” So, his first week with the LA Org was spent receiving body and “nerve assists” (to put his body back in touch with itself, and to wake the nerves up) and going for long walks (“locationals”). Later Mr. Henderson would learn that the Church was charging him approximately $19,000.00 for these expensive “assists,” something he had not been told at the time, and that he had not agreed to.
Mr. Henderson dealt with a few people at the LA Org. Nicole was the Senior Director of Processing, and Ben was Director of Processing. Lindsay [Smith?] was the Registrar, and Cassie appeared to be a Registrar in Training. Sharee appeared to be a Registrar. Cassie had arranged for his air ticket and accommodation. She obtained his signature on the Clear Package. It was a blank piece of paper on which she wrote, “I Sean Henderson agree to pay $80,000.00 for the Clear Package.” Of course, it was totally out-policy for the Church to sell Mr. Henderson any Scientology services when he had not done his “amends” such as his “A to E.” He was an “illegal PC,” having failed to complete “Routing Out” 26 years earlier.
After arriving at the LA Org., Mr. Henderson was required to provide Registrar Lindsay with his Social Security information, date of birth, address, his bank account information, and his RCU credit card. The Church already had much of Mr. Henderson’s personal data from his employment on staff nearly thirty years earlier.
Mr. Henderson had been told that the Clear package normally cost parishioners $240,000.00 to purchase but he was being offered the Clear package at the special price of only $80,000.00. Mr. Henderson told the Registrars again that there was no way he could afford that. He only earned about $500.00 per month and he was on the government food stamp program. Furthermore, he was in a binding escrow contract for the purchase of land on the big island of Hawaii. Sharee told him that Clear is for many lifetimes but his land was only for this lifetime and he would still be able to buy the land after going Clear, if he still wanted that.
Lindsay, Cassie and Sharee said they would figure out a way to make the money side of it happen. They would open a line of credit to pay for it. Later they said they would open zero percent interest credit cards for him and find a place he could afford to stay and a job. They never did find him a job. He was told the credit card limits would be enough to pay for the $80,000.00 ‘Clear package.’ However, Mr. Henderson did not know what sort of job he could get that would pay the kind of money necessary to pay off the credit cards. Sharee said she would put together a proper spreadsheet with all the information regarding each credit card, due dates, payment amounts, etc. She never did. Moreover, the Church overwhelmed Mr. Henderson with arguments such as: “We can make this work…Sometimes you need to step up and play a bigger game.” Eventually, Mr. Henderson told them, “Just don’t mess with the RCU credit card.” Mr. Henderson also told his handlers that they were not to touch the money in his RCU checking account. As we shall see, the Church did so anyway.
On or about October 10-12, 2018, Church Registrar Lindsay took Mr. Henderson’s cell phone and said she was going to open new credit cards for him. She told him they would be zero percent interest for the first year, which he initially thought would mean zero percent payments. He thought that meant no payments at all for a year, and he would have a year to make money and pay them off. He was confused, mistaken and later felt as though he had been unfairly manipulated. Anyway, Lindsay opened the new credit cards by using the Internet and the websites for each card company. Without Mr. Henderson’s assistance, she in-putted the required information into the on-line application to open each new card. She did not tell him what information she was inputting into each credit card application. After Lindsay had completed each credit card application she would have Mr. Henderson press the appropriate computer key to submit the credit card application. When he asked her why, she responded, “Because it would be unethical for [her] to actually submit the application.”
In this manner, Lindsay opened seven credit cards, one after the other. Credit card applications were later declined by Discover and Citibank. It should be noted that on November 17, 2018, Citibank declined the credit application prepared by the Church because Citibank “couldn’t verify the accuracy of some of the information [the Church] provided.” However, the Church was on notice of Mr. Henderson’s meager income and his reliance upon the government’s food stamp program. Mr. Henderson was obviously unable to lawfully qualify for each of the seven cards the Church was opening to enable him to purchase and pay for the Church’s very expensive products. Similarly, the Church knew or should have known that once the Church had maxed out each of the eight credit cards Mr. Henderson was obviously unable to service the aggregate minimum monthly payments of $4,441.48. His monthly income is approx. $500.00, which is supplemented by the government food stamp program. The Church was clearly engaged in fraud ab initio.
Notwithstanding, and using Mr. Henderson’s own cell phone, three to four hours later, Lindsay then telephoned each of the credit card companies. Each of her telephone calls would have been recorded by the credit card company. Lindsay told each credit card company’s representative that she was just helping her boss, or her brother, with his finances and she was calling to see if the credit card application had been approved. Upon being questioned, Lindsay would pass the cell phone to a confused Mr. Henderson to “confirm” and that the information Lindsay had just given the credit card company about her being his sister or employer was correct and then he would hand the cell phone back to her so she could complete the call. That same day the Church maxed each of the credit cards out, with charges that total nearly $77,000.00. The seven new credit cards had not even been printed or mailed.
Registrar Lindsay retained custody of each of the seven new credit cards after they were issued and mailed. The Church did not need to have Mr. Henderson’s RCU card because they already had all requisite information with which to impersonate him and make unauthorized charges. Indeed, at one point in time, Mr. Henderson was present when a man came into the LA Org and asked to see Lindsay. The receptionist said, “Who are you?” “I’m her husband and she has all of my credit cards,” the man replied. Mr. Henderson interjected, “Well she must be a bigamist because she has my credit cards too.”
Anyway, the Church had Mr. Henderson do its 250-question Oxford Capacity Analysis (“OCA”). While he was doing it, Church employees repeatedly interrupted him with requests to sign a check to be drawn on his RCU checking account. But the Church was not using his own checks. They were creating and typing a special check, but it took them at least four times to get the information on their check correct. They had obtained the checking account number, bank routing number, etc. from the RCU. Eventually Mr. Henderson signed one check which was made out to the LA Org., for $13,000.00, which almost emptied his RCU checking account. Later that day Mr. Henderson could not understand why he had agreed to what the Church Registrar’s wanted and why he eventually signed their checks. That night he noticed that there was only $400.00 in his RCU checking account. He was distraught and broke down into tears over what the Church had done to him, his finances, and his future.
After the Church had opened the seven new credit cards for Mr. Henderson and then maxed them out with charges he had not authorized, and had maxed out his RCU credit card, and had drained his RCU checking account of $13,000.00, Mr. Henderson realized the enormity of what had happened and the impossible financial position the Church had now put him in. He concluded that the Church must have fabricated his financial status when it used the Internet to sequentially open his seven new credit cards. He became concerned as to what had happened and could not understand how the Church had pressured and manipulated him into getting involved again with the Scientology organization. It felt as though he was in a matrix; that he was in a tunnel.
That night, after the seven new credit cards had been opened by the Church, Mr. Henderson looked at his RCU credit card balance online and learned that the Church had maxed that out too with two more charges, one for $12,000.00 and another for $1,000.00. Mr. Henderson had no recollection of authorizing either charge. On or about October 17, 2019, Mr. Henderson complained to Registrar Lindsay about what had been done to his RCU credit card. He was told that they could fix that. Lindsay then drove him to a nearby ClearPath Credit Union location, gave him instructions, and waited outside while he carried the instructions out inside the bank although he was confused as to what he was doing and why. He recalls that what she had him do was cash advance the entire limits of the two FirstTech cards to a ClearPath savings account she had previously opened in his name, and then withdraw a Cashier’s check in favor of the LA Org for $30,000.00. Lindsay also told him that ClearPath and First Tech were related companies. As a result, Lindsay told Mr. Henderson they could now put a stop payment on the RCU check which she did using his cell phone. However, he later called the RCU himself and learned that the stop payment was unsuccessful because the $13,000.00 had already been transferred from his RCU credit card to the Church’s account.
By October 16 or 17, 2018, Mr. Henderson was not sleeping. He started “freaking-out” about what Scientology had persuaded him to do. He wrote a few “Knowledge Reports” (“KRs”) to RTC on the RTC computer. He also gave copies to his Auditor and Ethics Officer. Although he understood that the Church would pay for his accommodation and food it had reneged on that and he was virtually without funds. He began surviving on food stamps.
Devastated, on October 17, 2018, Mr. Henderson called Hawaii and cancelled the escrow in connection with the property he was planning to purchase before the Church persuaded him that he would be better off “going Clear.” Now he had no money, no property, and he was more than $80,000.00 in debt. Meanwhile, the Church had delivered 31 boxes of books to Mr. Henderson. He had nowhere to put so many boxes and, for that sole purpose, he had to rent a storage room near the Church.
About five days before he returned to Hawaii, Mr. Henderson requested Cassie to schedule his return trip. She could not do it then but said she would do so in several days. She never did. He had to set up his own return air ticket to Hawaii at his own expense. Meanwhile, the Church was creating difficulties, delays, and more expense for him. Every time he expressed his financial anxieties or complained as to what had happened the Church said he was “nattering” and therefore he had to back into “session” and undergo further “auditing” at his expense (of many hundreds of dollars per hour).
This Church auditing took the form of expensive Security Checks on the Church’s E-Meter. Many of the Security Check questions asked about having sex with little girls and boys. He expressed his outrage and offense at their suggestions. The Church responded that it was “trying to determine if [he] was dangerous to the community.” If this was not bad enough there would be worse treatment to come.
As noted already Mr. Henderson had to unexpectedly arrange and pay for his return air ticket to Hawaii. However, the night before he was scheduled to return the Church required him to do even more Security Checking and punishing “Lower Conditions.” This required him to approach other Scientologists at the LA Org and ask for their supporting signatures on a written request to rejoin the group. During two days of “Lower Conditions” the Ethics Officer kept rewriting the “conditions.” Mr. Henderson had to do “attests” and “have a floating needle.” Then he had to write a “success story.” He had nothing successful to write about. Mr. Henderson protested because he had his return flight to catch and he was at risk of missing the plane’s departure from Los Angeles Airport. He was told, “You are not going anywhere. You are not leaving the building until you finish these steps.” Now the Church was detaining him against his will. As a result, he had to cancel his air ticket and reschedule at an additional personal cost of $150.00. The next day Mr. Henderson was told, “You are not allowed to leave until you write a success story.” He finally finished about 10 PM and just made a 10 PM Church shuttle back to the Scientology Crest Hotel. The next morning, he went to the airport.
On November 1, 2018, Mr. Henderson arrived back in Hawaii where he continued to be anxious and thought he might have to declare bankruptcy because of the nearly $80,000.00 indebtedness that the Church had caused him to incur, along with the removal of the $13,000.00 from his RCU checking account, the other costs he incurred, and the cost of the air ticket back home (which the Church had said it would pay when inexplicably persuading him to travel to the Los Angeles Org to “go Clear”).
After his return to Hawaii at the beginning of November 2018, Mr. Henderson began making telephone calls to the Church. He wanted to request restitution of the expense it had convinced him to incur. In this regard, in 1993 the Church had made numerous representations about its refund and repayment procedures to the IRS in support of its group application for IRS Section 501(c)(3) status. However, this situation is different. It involves credit card fraud and other criminal conduct by the Church and its agents.
Mr. Henderson could never get through to the appropriate staff when he made these telephone calls to the Church and his messages to call back were never returned. For example, on November 11, 2018, he called Ethics at the LA Org 12 times in one day. Few of these telephone calls were returned. The few times he was able to speak with someone at the LA Org about restitution, he was told that he would have to return to the LA Org and do a “routing out form.” Exasperated, on November 11, 2019, he wrote a Knowledge Report. The next day, November 12, 2018, the LA Org finally returned his credit cards.
Subsequently, on November 15 and 16, 2018, Mr. Henderson started calling the seven credit card companies (and the eighth, the RCU credit card company) to provide information as to what the Church had to done to him, and then to close each account. Each credit company’s representative stated that the call was being recorded. Several said that he may have participated in credit card fraud, however innocently (and in unconscionable circumstances that included the lack of consent, deceit, duress, mental manipulation, misrepresentations, and other fraud and misconduct). Apparently, in addition to credit card fraud, the Church may have lied to credit companies, made false representations, and made other false pretenses.
American Express was co-operative. They seemed to “understand what had happened.” On November 15, 2018, they closed Mr. Henderson’s new account and on November 17, 2018, they credited the closed account with $1,000.00 subject to documented opposition by the merchant Church. Similarly, on November 16, 2018, Wells Fargo closed his account and on November 19, 2018 they credited his account with $2,500.00.
Mr. Henderson also changed the passwords to his email account and RCU accounts. In addition, he called TransUnion and Equifax to put a security freeze on his credit. He was told he would need a subpoena to find out from Lending Tree if there were other accounts he needed to close. He still does not know. Before the Church had persuaded Mr. Henderson to travel to Los Angeles he had a credit (FICA) score of 808. After the Church had finished with the eight credit cards and the checking account, his FICA score had plummeted to 456. Now he will have to engage a credit repair firm to assist in the recovery of a good FICA score.
In early January 2019 Mr. Henderson still had not received any significant or satisfactory response from the Church and he decided to travel to Los Angeles and make his restitution claims personally. He did some Internet research about the Church, happened upon the adverse claims of other former Scientologists when they did the routing form procedure, and happened upon the contact information for several prominent former Scientologists. They referred Mr. Henderson to his attorney herein who, on January 9, 2018, emailed Church attorney Kendrick L. Moxon, Esq., to advise the Church that this pre-litigation demand letter would be forthcoming. Television, Internet and other media then learned of Mr. Henderson’s shocking story and financial plight. The TV, Internet and print media want to immediately tape and publish his story, and his wish to seek legal redress and restitution. Notwithstanding, to date Mr. Henderson’s counsel has prevailed upon him (and the media) to first request pre-litigation relief by way of an out of court settlement.
— Graham Berry
Categories: The Scientology Money Project