An amazing story is hitting the Internet today of 19-year-old Daniel Montalvo, a lifelong Scientologist who decided to leave the wacky cabal, only to find himself arrested by LA sheriff’s deputies and facing prison time for it.
The tale comes courtesy of Marty Rathbun, formerly one of the highest officials in Scientology who defected and has kept up a withering takedown of the “church” on his blog.
Rathbun writes for fellow ex-Scientologists, so there’s a lot of jargon and coded references in his writing. But here are the basics of what Rathbun reported.
Montalvo had grown up in Scientology and its most fanatical wing, the “Sea Org,” which requires members to sign billion-year contracts and promise to serve L. Ron Hubbard’s sci-fi cult, lifetime after lifetime.
As we’ve written many times before, life in the Sea Org is incredibly regimented and ascetic, with extremely low pay, long hours, and even meager food. Members tend to be tenaciously loyal to the organization, but many eventually have flameouts, some spectacularly so.
In this case, Rathbun suggests that what precipitated Montalvo’s crisis in faith was an article in Freedom, Scientology’s propaganda magazine, which attacked Rathbun and some other high-ranking members who have defected in recent years. Among those attacked was Tom Devocht, who Montalvo knew personally — and that personal knowledge convinced Montalvo that Freedom’s claims about Devocht were lies. That moment of clarity convinced Montalvo to look for some outside guidance. Going online, he found Rathbun’s blog and made use of it to contact Devocht. Montalvo began to think seriously of leaving Scientology.
The problem for Montalvo was that just as he was coming to that conclusion, the particular Scientology group he was working for became targeted for one of Scientology’s infamous security crackdowns. Montalvo knew that shortly, he’d be strapped to an ersatz lie-detector machine and forced under incredible psychological pressure to admit to any “crimes.” He knew that he’d be unable to hide from his employers that he’d dared to read anti-Scientology material on the Internet and that he’d made contact with former members.
So he made a break for it. Rathbun describes what happened next…
The kid only had a hand held text message sender and receiver, no phone. We coordinated his route out, lost all our tails, and picked him up at a pre-designated spot.
We took him to a far away Deli and delighted at watching him eat a cheeseburger and fries with his eyes lit up like he was ingesting an eight course gourmet feast…
Montalvo, Rathbun writes, had taken with him a couple of hard drives that had music on them, but they also had material from Bridge Publications, the place where he worked and that is responsible for publishing all of Hubbard’s malarkey.
Rathbun writes that he and the others advised Montalvo to return the hard drives immediately, and he did, via a messenger service.
They then helped him get to Florida, to join Tom Devocht, who had offered to house him and find him a job.
There, Rathbun says, Devocht and Montalvo faced a siege of pressure from Scientologists, including Montalvo’s family, to give up his flight from the organization.
“Tom fought them off like a she-gator protecting her young,” Rathbun writes.
But eventually, Montalvo did want to talk to his mother. When he called Scientology to do this, however, he was put through to Kendrick Moxon.
Oh, believe me, we know all about Kendrick Moxon.
This miserable excuse for a human being is an attorney and attack dog for Scientology, and we’ve been writing about him for more than ten years. For a lengthy description of how Moxon and the church used Scientology’s money to convince a patsy to testify falsely against a church enemy by plying him with a job, a car, and even a home, see the story “Double Crossed.”
Anyway, the young and naive Daniel Montalvo was an easy mark for the likes of Moxon.
Moxon proceeded to lie to Daniel that the hard drives were never returned, and made a convincing case (not difficult to do with a 19 year old who doesn’t even know the three branches of government) that Daniel would be put behind iron bars for a good long time, UNLESS of course, he returned and cooperated with Moxon and routed out properly.
By “route out properly,” Rathbun refers to the quasi-military nonsense that permeates Scientology. Montalvo was being told that he needed to leave the church in a more proper, by-the-book way. But that was just a ruse, Rathbun says.
Although Devocht told Montalvo that he was walking into a trap, Montalvo returned to LA like a good little obedient Scientologist.
Daniel was picked up by an investigator in a black car with blacked out windows. Instead of being taken to a hotel, where he could route out as promised, he was taken to the Century City Towers. He was deposited in an office on the 33rd floor where a pricy church lawyer interrogated him for two hours.
They were later joined by a detective of the LA Sheriff’s Office, who was presented by Moxon with a binder of “evidence” of “a grand conspiracy theory, characterizing me as the ‘anti-christ’ of the church of Scientology,” Rathbun writes. Montalvo was accused of taking church property — the hard drives — although he insisted that he’d sent them back.
Montalvo was taken to jail, where he spent 70 hours before he was bailed out by another former Scientologist, musician Tiziano Lugli.
Rathbun is not specific about what charges Montalvo is facing (we’re checking), but he is making a public call for donations to pay for Montalvo’s defense. In the meantime, Rathbun harshly criticizes LA Sheriff Lee Baca for allowing his department to be hoodwinked in this fashion.
Rathbun and Lugli and actor Jason Beghe and other former Scientologists are mobilizing to help Montalvo, Rathbun writes, a young kid “facing the penitentiary in thanks for the following sins: a) Leaving a lifehood of slavery to get a taste of freedom and the world. b) Refusing – despite every provocation and incentive and threat – to frame three guys who went out of their ways (and dipped into their pockets) to help the kid achieve that freedom.”
UPDATE: Rathbun chimed in (see below) to specify that Montalvo has been charged with Grand Theft.
Tony Ortega is the editor-in-chief of The Village Voice. Since 1995, he’s been writing about Scientology at several publications. Among his other stories about L. Ron Hubbard’s organization:
The Larry Wollersheim Saga — Scientology Finally Pays For Its Fraud
The Tory Bezazian (Christman) Story — How the Internet Saved A Scientologist From Herself
The Jason Beghe Defection — A Scientology Celebrity Goes Rogue
The Paul Haggis Ultimatum — The ‘Crash’ Director Tells Scientology to Shove It
The Marc Headley Escape — ‘Tom Cruise Told Me to Talk to a Bottle’
The Aaron Saxton Accusation — Australia turns up the heat on Scientology
The Jefferson Hawkins Stipulation — Scientology’s former PR genius comes clean
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on October 8, 2010