While we wait for reports on tonight’s drama in Beverly Hills — where Tom Cruise will be receiving a Humanitarian Award from the Simon Wiesenthal Center for all his years hunting down disembodied space aliens through the magic of Dianetics — there was a fun morsel for Scientology watchers this week right here in New York City.
On Tuesday, Howard Stern had on his show a private investigator, Mark Chaupetta, who does your run-of-the-mill stuff with cheating husbands and wives (Zzzzz). But the show picked up when Chaupetta began discussing his past as a PI working for Scientology.
As we reported just last week, high-profile defectors of Scientology are pretty used to being surveilled, which can include having their trash inspected. And so it was fun to hear Chaupetta confirm that Scientology pays flatfoots to do that kind of work.
Howard Stern: You were hired by the Church of Scientology, right?
Mark Chaupetta: I was…
Chaupetta: In my…there’s a chapter in the book… I met them about 10-12 years ago and they hire me just to do background work, to do investigative work on…
Stern: In other words, if I am a person who criticizes the Church of Scientology…
Chaupetta: They would hire someone like me to find everything you could think of about you, surveillance, pull trash…
Stern: Why are they so paranoid? They have a successful operation…
Chaupetta: You know, it’s weird I…
Robin Quivers: Who are they looking for?
Chaupetta: You know, it’s weird, a lot of them are ex-members and I can’t say anything bad about them because they’ve never handed me pamphlets, they’ve never forced me to go in that direction. I was an outside contractor, I said “hey look, so long as the money’s green, so long as it’s ethical”. But I did have to go through the whole e-meter test before I started doing work for them. I twas like something a 3rd grader made with toilet paper rolls and they asked if I was a secret spy.
Stern: Why not hire someone within Scientology? Why would they risk a guy like you who’s a loud mouth going around talking…
Chaupetta: …who’s gonna go on Howard Stern and talk about it 10 years later?
Stern: That’s right, hire someone from within.
Chaupetta: Because you know what? I have nothing bad to say about them, they’re actually nice people, they’ve been good to me, they were a good client.S
Stern: What do you find out about the people about the people who criticize Scientology?
Chaupetta: Just anything, you just gather intel. Knowledge is power.
Stern: So what are they looking for?
Quivers: What do they care?
Chaupetta: In case it goes into litigation. There are a lot of ex-members that are out there to err….
Stern: You said while you were there, Tom Cruise walks through a secret passage way and then appears in rooms.
Quivers: Maybe he just walks through walls.
Stern: What do you mean, “a secret passageway”
Chaupetta: I was out at erm…. oh god… you know what? Somebody’s gonna be watching me now alright. [laughter]. I was at the Celebrity Centre in LA many years ago and he said…they said he came through his secret private entrance. I didn’t see it, I didn’t know if was like a batcave or anything and he came by, he had a Yankees hat on, I had a soft hat on, he said hi to me, he seemed genuine and was going to study.
Stern: What is the secret entrance? So no one will see him, no one can behold him?
Chaupetta: I guess. I have no clue.
Quivers: He was going to study.
Stern: Study what?
Chaupetta: He was continuing his education.
Stern: I think at this point he knows everything.
Chaupetta: I mean I don’t know him personally and I’ve never done work for him personally but, you know, I was out there on a job.
Stern: Now Scientology doesn’t use you any more?
Chaupetta: I haven’t done work for them in about 6 or 7 years. They’re nice people…
Stern: you think they weren’t satisfied with your work?
Chaupetta: Er, No, you know I think they just suffered from recession and I think what they do is that they rotate a lot of different people and it’s time to move on with someone else. I already did great work for… I did great work, I was the best trash picker in the fucking U.S.
Stern: And you would find out things? What kind of girls they like? What kind of guys they like? Would you find out if they were seeing homoesexuals and then report that to the Church of Scientology?
Chaupetta: I would just gather the intel, Howard, and then I would give it back, you know “Post-Its”, letters, envelopes, addresses. Banana peel you would throw out.
Stern: Did you ever wonder what they were doing with that material? Did you worry that they might be using it to discredit guy or to frame a guy or to do something like that?
Chaupetta: You know what? That’s er.. you know again, I wasn’t doing anything illegal. Pulling trash is legal if its on a curbside. If you going through a dumpster it’s trespassing, it’s illegal. So I’m performing my job as a professional investigator to get the trash and peform as a….
Stern: Did you ever turn down a case because you think it’s immoral?
Chaupetta: The only case I really turned down recently was a woman who though that someone implanted a listening device in her brain and she wanted to know if I could sweep her head….
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 Robert Cipriano Case — A Hellacious Example of Fair Game
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
The Daniel Montalvo Double-Cross — Scientology lures a young defector into a trap
A Church Myth Debunked — Scientology and Proposition 8
Daniel Montalvo Strikes Back — Scientology Hit with Stunning Child-Labor Lawsuits
When Scientologists Attack — The Marty Rathbun Intimidation
A Scientologist Excommunicated — The Michael Fairman SP Declaration