What an enormous pleasure it was to speak to the Sheriff of Tom Green County, Texas, Nick Hanna.
He recounted the incredible story of his work (and that of many others) in discovering, investigating and prosecuting the criminal activities and abuses in a compound of the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints on a ranch (the YFZ Ranch “Yearning For Zion”) in the small town of Eldorado Texas in 2003.
It is a perfect example of how law enforcement and the court system got it right with a religious organization abusing its members, especially children.
A bit of background:
Tom Green County where Nick is the Sheriff, and its location relative to Eldorado.
Some background on the cult leader Warren Jeffs
Some earlier blog posts showing a similar pattern with scientology as what Nick describes with the FLDS:
How Scientology Views Law Enforcement
If you don’t know the story of Michael Meisner — I mention he was kidnapped. escaped and became the witness used for the raid by the FBI on scientology in LA and DC in 1977 — here is a summary by Tony Ortega.
maria mccartan says
great episode! it defo gives hope that all it might take is 1 current Scientologist to be brave enough and able to make that call!
Not difficult vis-a-vis the courts because the foundation was built on sexually abusing minors. Didn’t factor in one bit that it was under guise of religion. Would be the same if built on forcible rape of adult women.
My hat’s off to Texas. They did with the FLDS what the state of Utah would NEVER do.
Shelley Ashurst says
Let me try to answer your question.
There are 3 ways the church makes money:
1. “Donations” (fees) for services & materials – training, counseling & books/lectures etc.
2. Membership fees like the IAS, WISE, I-Help etc
3. Straight fundraising donations towards building new orgs or contributing to “special projects”
Reges (or Registrars) are full-time staff members in the church. Their sole job is to sign people up for services. Another kind of “Reg” are “Bookstore Officers” and their job is to sell books, tapes and other study paraphernalia to SCN public. Then you get IAS Reg’s whose job it is to sign people up for IAS memberships (it is compulsory now for every SCN to be an IAS member). And then you get the various staff that work in WISE, I-Help, Volunteer Ministers etc – and they get SCNs to pay for memberships in these various groups.
A staff-member Registrar (or Reg for short) does not get any personal commission for getting money out of people. This was not always the case, however, and there was a time when individual staff members were paid commissions, but this policy was cancelled by Miscavige years ago.
An org or mission can make “FSM Commission” if they send a public to a higher org (for example if they send one of their public to an Advanced Org or if a Mission sends one of their public to a Class 5 org) – but in this case, the org or mission gets the money – not an individual. These commissions all go towards staff pay & are split among every staff member in that org according to the pay-unit system policy.
An FSM (Field Staff Member) is not on staff at any church. These people are ordinary everyday SCNs who refer their friends, family and others to the church for services. If said friend, family or referral signs up for a service, they receive a small commission. Money paid for training and books realizes a higher percentage commission (15%) than money paid for counseling (10%). If any FSM gets his selectee to purchase an IAS membership or increase their IAS status, they get 10% commission.
There are VERY few FSMs who can survive (let alone become wealthy) on commissions made through SCN – probably no more than a handful.
If no FSM exists (i.e. the person buying services was not referred by anyone but was a “walk in” or came in as a result of an ad etc), then that org is the “FSM” and the commission is put towards the staff payroll.
All money paid to the church by any SCN is considered a “donation” whether it be for services, memberships, or straight fundraising. In fact, outright fundraising (to pay for buildings, new churches or special projects) is actually expressly forbidden in a policy by Hubbard – but as he’s no longer around and Miscavige is at the helm, I guess anything goes now.
There is also a Hubbard policy which states any person requesting a refund should get it immediately – but this is virtually impossible these days – 99% of people are never ever given a refund unless they spend a fortune in legal fees and years jumping through hoops. I know of very few people who have ever received a refund.
And yes, you are correct in your summation that all Reg’s are ruthless and will have you sell your grandmother’s house, get up to your eyeballs in debt or pay over your entire pension & end up living on the street. They don’t care – they have one bloody-minded goal – and that is to milk you dry, come what may.
Thanks very much for the info Shelley.
That was an amazingly complete explanation of how the cult makes money and I will save that and refer to it whenever I want to know how it works.
I was hoping someone would give me some basic info but that was far above and beyond what I ever could have expected.
I cannot thank you enough for that info, Shelley.
Bruce Ploetz says
Excellent interview, Mike and Leah.
1. Sex sells. Would NXIUM have gone down without the branded girls?
2. DOCUMENTS DOCUMENTS DOCUMENTS. We are never going to get them on eyewitness reports, these are automatically contaminated by the nature of the cult. We were trained to invent our own pasts, just to have something to talk to the “counselor” about. Can someone who actually believes his wife killed him in a former life tell the truth, even about what he had for breakfast?
3. Scientology, like FLDS, is addicted to documentation. Everything is there in writing somewhere. As the Sheriff said, you just have to correlate the written data with known events from the same time period. With Scientology it is all on paper, sorry for those who have to read all that garbage but it does mean they can’t wipe it all at the push of a button.
Sadly in this country the Attorneys General are in elected positions. I can see why the writers of the various state and federal constitutions wanted to have some accountability for these positions of incredible power in our government, to give the people the ability to remove those who abuse that power.
The downside is that the ones in charge of the prosecutors are politically connected, leading to the horrible concept of prosecutorial discretion. The temptation must be incredible for these Attorney Generals to take on high profile cases that will get national attention and to avoid the political hot potatoes.
I am not sure how we get around that, other than hope someone like Danny Masterson blows the whole thing up by insisting on involving Scientology. Taking the whole thing with him as he circles the drain on his way down. Somehow Dave Miscavige incarcerating his own wife is not enough to make the papers.
Mary Kahn says
All I have to say – Mike and Leah – is that you have done (and are doing) all you can do to bring justice to a group that is protected in so many ways. You two have saved lives with the Aftermath series; so many millions of people were educated as far as the church of scientology’s abuses and cult-type abuses and mindsets. So many more people better understand mental trappings and can see the signs of such in their own lives and so, live better lives. The Church of Scientology is shrinking and failing in large part because of you and because of people like you who continue to expose and educate.
In this sense we are living in grand times, even though our Justice system is broken in so many ways.
Tim Walters says
Great podcast, Mike. I ran across this IRS form while I was researching the Word of Faith Fellowship in Spindale, NC. I thought it might be helpful in reporting Scientology.
Tax Exempt Organization Complaint
Apparently the “Hubbard is always right” thing made treason right. LRH’s betrayal of our nation made my life as a combat rifleman (MOS 11B) more difficult.
I want to apologize to everyone here because I made a real mess of a post I tried to make earlier. I made a post but then the board would not permit me to make changes to it. When I tried to re-post it, the board told me it was a duplicate post and things just got worse.
So there are now three posts below that were made earlier. These posts are confusing and it appears like they try to correct each other. But I really do wish Mike would just delete them. I hope this post will now explain what I was trying to ask and I will now try to explain what I am trying to ask you and why it is important to me.
I recently discovered what I believe is the way this cult operates its finances and I’d like to know if I understand this correctly. It seems to me there is a small group of people within the cult known as FSMs (Field Staff Members) or Reges (Registrars) and it is their job to apply high pressure techniques to squeeze as much money as possible from all the other members. I estimate this small group, which I call “wolves” (because of their ferocious nature) are sometimes FSMs and sometimes Reges. I don’t understand if these are necessarily the same people or not.
But the essential way things work is this small group of people (I’m only guessing but perhaps they make up five percent of all members), are recruited because they have a talent for sales. It seems to me that requires them to be forceful and driven and completely unscrupulous in the way they operate without any concern for the harm they do to others. They convince people to raise their credit card limits and then max out those credit cards by borrowing money they then pay the cult for services. Then, they get new credit cards and repeat the process. In the end, they often leave people bankrupt. These wolves get a ten percent commission on all the money they raise for the cult in this way.
These wolves live a much better lifestyle than the ordinary members (who I often refer to as “sheeple”). They drive nice cars. They can afford to eat in restaurants and they can afford all the niceties for which other people in the cult must beg. I’m talking about simple things like cigarettes or gas for their cars or food that is not terrible.
To keep this short, I will now cut this off and ask, “Have I got these financial workings essentially correct”? A very small group of people within the cult are trained for high pressure sales and they demonstrate a talent for being able to push around other people and push them into borrowing money they can never afford to pay back and all that money is paid to the cult and can never ever be refunded.
Have I got the basics correct? Is this how the cult gets all of its money – aside from the money donated by billionaire whales?
Jere Lull says
I think you have the effects down pat, but I never saw FSMs living large unless they had a dependable income from another source like a spouse or a company which produced something. They also didn’t tend to be highly trained unless they did those courses before they got the FSM gig.
When the FLDS was happening, I studied all the materials and films I could get my hands on. Besides the Original location and YFZ, there was Pringle, Bountiful in Canada, and affiliated groups in Mexico. Its amazing they found and caught Jeffs, he had a network and an escape plan. Its been surreal seeing what happened to Short Creek after Jeffs’ fall.
V Vendetta says
The book by FLDS victim Rebecca Musser, The Witness Wore Red, is a gripping saga of the Warren Jeffs atrocities and Ms. Musser’s role in assisting Texas law enforcement with bringing this predatory reptile and his minions to justice.
Ranger Hanna and other investigators “earned their pay” indeed, as related in a Sunport Magazine article:
“For more than two years, Ranger Hanna and Texas Attorney General Investigator Wesley Hensley combed through and organized what was variously reported as 400 to 1,000 large boxes of seized materials. Material pulled from digital storage, reportedly six terabytes worth, added greatly to the documentary evidence.”
Certainly a model for what we can hope will be the dissolution of and prosecutorial justice rendered to the evil empire of Scientology.
This is an excellent read….Rebecca is a victim as well of what goes on behind the fences & closed doors of FLDS. She was married off to Roulon Jeffs…Warren Jeffs father….knowing nothing about marital sex etc…..what a way to find out…on your wedding night.
Jeffs had intercourse after his spiritual marriage with a 12 year old girl, it was witnessed by a group of viewers who was said to have watched the “seal of the marriage” …….with the little girl being taped as the act was in progress…. asking her if “she was alright”…..with her replying “I’m fine”….seriously?????
After his father’s death Warren Jeffs also took on his father’s wives as his own, meaning he was having sex with some 70+ women & fathering children all over the place. Jeffs chose the youngest prettiest girls for himself as spiritual wives.
As the young lady way back when that we helped through DSS, she was fondled by men who were old enough to be her father or grandfather. She was told she was “getting old” & she’d be married off & that is when she escaped.
Sadly, as I mentioned before, she left the safety of the secure house we had her in & returned to FLDS because she missed her mother, siblings, extended half siblings etc.
Our “inside moles” (as in the TV series Escaping Polygamy”)….learned that as soon as she reappeared back on the FLDS compound….the next day she was removed from her mother’s home & moved out of state….she was then we heard married off within days to an loyal FLDS member in his late 40’s or 50’s……& pregnant immediately.
To know that the older teen boys were run off the FLDS compounds because they’d be marital competition for the young girls who’d be offered up as bride to ONLY the older most loyal FLDS Jeffs minions as rewards, with the girls having NO CHOICE in it. Those young boys became homeless, begging for food & a place to sleep with some getting into male prostitution & drug addiction is sickening.
Sadly the women & children removed from one of the FLDS compounds WILLINGLY went back home to live the ONLY LIFE they’ve ever known. Although changes have been made it’s been said that it’s still being run by Jeffs through his telephone REVELATIONS passed on to the still loyal minions.
Last I heard, Jeffs had ordered “no more marriages while I AM AWAY”……I wonder how that’s going???? Jeffs is afraid he’s lost his opportunity to wed & bed the prettiest young teens….tsk tsk tsk…
Jere Lull says
“Jeffs had ordered “no more marriages while I AM AWAY”
That’s pretty much what Davey has ordered, it seems. I suppose the no extra-marital sex rule is in place in the SO, so it’s likely to be an unbearable scene for the young-and-horny crowd, as it was for me and my friends.
So said isn’t it. Jeffs can’t participate in the “bedroom gymnastics” so why should anyone ELSE be permitted to do so. Can you imagine his 70+ “wives” waiting for his release from prison. Like Lron H…..his followers really do think Jeffs will be back home in the future.
Yet TC was married so many times & is still on the hunt for the perfect wife to his his & DM’s ass. TC is a three time loser & DM has a wife that has been MIA for over ten years….that says enough about these idiots.
Dear Jere, I hope you found your happiness once you freed yourself. You ARE an incredible lovely person.
Sorry, typed too fast for my brain to correct before posting permanently….I’m , getting old ya know!
SHOULD have read “the perfect wife to KISS his & DM’s ass”
Glad that Warren Jeffs is in jail. I would write what I think about his organization but that would be a long rant with curses worthy of Captain Haddock.
100% agree. What I think about often times are the dozens and dozens of children he fathered with very YOUNG girls, the wives he married & his DEAD father’s wives that he took on as his own.
No OTHER man got to select “the cream of the crop” as wives for themselves. The older loyal men got Jeffs’ “leftovers”….the ones he did NOT want for himself.
Imagine him sexually assaulting (raping) a 12 year old CHILD under the guise of “spiritual marriage” in FRONT of live witnesses to confirm “the seal of marriage”…i.e. he consummated the marriage with sex with a PRE TEEN. It was recorded …totally disgusting….the CHILD being asked “are you Ok” & she replying “Yes, I am fine”….while HE assaulted her sexually.
It’s been said Jeffs is STILL running the show from prison & spews forth as the Prophet his “revelations”, his ramblings on and on…..& I’d guess most of it is obeyed by the still older male loyals.
The women are under educated, have no work experience other than being “home makers”…i.e. cooks, bread bakers, seamstresses…..they have NEVER been in the outside world to see another side of life. This is ALL they’ve ever known,
I could go on and on with what I heard decades ago when DSS assisted a then girl who’d just turned 18…..too long a story. Supposedly her 16 year old cousin wanted to come along with her, but she was too young legally & we couldn’t take her….she “spilled the beans” so when the 18 year old came back…she was punished…..moved out of state, quickly married off to some guy she did NOT know who was late 40’s mid 50’s with several wives already. Our “inside mole” said she was also pregnant immediately & that was that.
The “men” in the compound still ride up & down the streets following or harassing anyone not known to the FLDS compound…that’s a given.
P.S. When I said that I would offer the Reges a 50% commission, I meant to say that is just what I considered fair. But the greedy bastard who started this cult figured that 10% was all he really needed to give them and they would be perfectly happy to work for that much.
Also, I meant to say the big reduction in money from courses and auditing sessions resulted from a very large drop in membership thanks to Mike and Leah.
Doggone it! I think I messed up the order of two posts and the above post with the “P.S.” is supposed to go with another post that describes my understanding of how the finances of this cult operate.
I tried to repost that but it won’t allow me and says that post is awaiting moderator approval. So … I’m not sure what to do. I will look for it later today and hope that I can straighten this mess out later. I apologize for this inconvenience. But I would really appreciate if someone could read that post about the cult finances and let me know if you think I got it right or if I am not understanding it.
This is kind of O/T. But I’ve been thinking about my understanding of how the finances of this cult works and I’d like to ask if there’s anyone could please tell me if it looks like I’m right about this.
It seems to me that ever since the TV show: Samology and Aftermath, there has been a large reduction in the membership of this cult which, in turn, has caused a large reduction in the money people spend on courses and auditing. I sure wish I knew just what percentage of the cult’s income comes from donations. But I’ll guess it’s something like maybe 80 percent of total income comes from billionaire whales who make donations in the millions or even hundreds of millions, in return for some shiny medals. But in the beginning, most of their income came from people paying for courses and auditing sessions.
If I was a greedy con artist and started a religion so I could avoid paying taxes, I would operate it as a business and sell prepaid courses and auditing services. Most importantly, no money that was paid would ever be refunded.
I would recognize that maybe 5% of the population, were as ruthless as myself and I would offer them a commission on all the money they would bring in. That money would come from selling courses and sessions. I would offer them maybe 50 percent commission. But I’m more generous than the actual founder who was just willing to pay them ten percent in order to get them to do whatever was required to get ordinary sheeples to max out their credit cards and then obtain new credit cards and max them out as well. Also, any time there was a rumor that some sheeple came into some unexpected funds – like inheritances or financial refunds or a bank errors, I would make sure the wolves (aka Reges) would immediately get all that money and they’d get every single penny. They’d make sure it was all spent on future courses and sessions and never ever refunded.
Please? Can anyone tell me. Is this essentially the way the finances of this cult operates? A tiny percentage of the members were turned into Reges and they only had a short time to produce or be gone. They got wealthy (in comparison to the sheeple). They drove nice cars and they ate in restaurants. Can you imagine that? But all the other sheeple were treated terribly. As soon as they could not get any more money, no one cared what happened to them.
Is this essentially right? Is it the way this cult really makes their money?
Jere Lull says
In particular, future services which were not delivered, not intended to be delivered or deliverable, and those payments WOULD NEVER BE REFUNDED. I suppose I still have money on account for my SHSBC, but Davey eliminated the course as SQUIRREL, even though it included nothing but Ron’s own words, including a wall of taped lectures to early BC students, listened to in order of original delivery. The only possible squirreling was Davey’s altering the tapes, themselves. Then he helter-skelter changed or cancelled bulletins and policy letters. Dwarfenführer® is the most “successful” SP and squirrel in the history of scientology.
Hello Jere. I’d be curious to know how you ever got “persuaded” to buy those future courses. Were they described as something that would do some good for you? Or were they part of some package to go up one or more levels on the bridge?
On one side of the scn bridge was training which is learning how to audit other people and on the other side was processing which is receiveng auditing. It wasn’t necessary to be trained to receive auditing but Hubbard recommended doing both to gain a greater understanding of the subject.
If you were trained you could co-audit the procedures for free which saved money. Co-auditing was fun and rewarding. I speak in the past tense since what DM is presenting has little resemblance to what I studied in the 1970’s imo.
I had hopes of making a living as an auditor. Back then you could become what was called a Field Auditor which was finding your own clients or preclears to audit for profit. I had purchased auditing for (a guess) $50/hour and felt it was worth the money and believed I could find people who would do likewise. At the time I ran a small construction company and often earned $25/hour for my efforts.This of course was from my perspective while being still-in and being unaware of what was on the OT levels and being unaware of the rotten core of the organization.
As with any occupation one might continue their education to become more knowledgeable and proficient. There was no expectation that money paid for a future course would be diverted elsewhere.
We once decades ago had a neighbor who tried to hook us into sell Amway…..all the training etc etc etc….buying MORE of their products way ahead of time for a “special discount”…scenario was buying on sale at their special discount it would be placing larger orders ” to save US money & make US a profit”…..as we’d sell to consumer for “full price” when we paid a “much lower price”…..
You can guess the scenario
BTW….this was done on a supposed “double date dinner”…..we paid for OUR OWN meal. When the PAID DINNER receipt arrived, our “neighbor” grabbed it from the table & then said” he was going to submit it as a sales pitch” so HIS DINNER would GET PAID by the company!!!! ………….
…………We were too stunned & embarrassed to ask for it back”…….
Holy crap…THAT was the LAST TIME we went out to dinner with them…..EVER…& NO…we did NOT sell the products he pitched.
But yes, our neighbor came off as quite charming, friendly, caring, when all the while he was in it to WIN it for himself. We ghosted them after that.
Zee Moo says
Sheriff Hanna and his posse earned their pay those days. Taking on the FLDS was not an easy task and Jeffs needs to be in prison. I bet he tries to run his scam from prison, but his minions have in the flesh ‘profits’ to obey now.
I wonder when or if the FBI will ever try to take down the CO$? While Miscavige isn’t marring 13 year olds, he does preside over the Sea Org and they do have 13 year old (or younger) ‘members’. Throw in a lot of immigration fraud, and I can see a Federal Grand Jury being kept very busy.
Jere Lull says
Who says Dwarenführer isn’t marring 13-year-olds? If there are ANY in the SO or other staff, they’re likely being scarred for life. What he does with his personal “communicators” ain’t likely to be wholesome and uplifting, either.
Besides which, any 13-year-olds he married would almost certainly be disappeared immediately. The creep must have learned from his first mistake. If you make your marriages known, a disappeared lady will raise all kinds of questions. But if no one knows her, there can never be any questions.
He must have some way of releasing his pent up sexual needs. After a time, I figure anyone would need some kind of real life companionship and punching out his flunkies just would not do the trick anymore. He must have some other kinds of release avenues. Don’t you think?
Jere Lull says
McSavages past actions and orders alone could keep multiple grand juries busy for tears.(oops, meant ‘Years’, but ‘Tears’ works, too.
McSavage? Very nice, Jere. One of the best names for the creep I have ever seen. Good on you, Mate!
I would think that the FBI etc “learned their lesson” AFTER the FLDS fiasco. They more or less forcibly removed all those wives & children from the compound AGAINST THEIR WILL & tried to process them…..the women strongly objected.
The women (wives) DEMANDED THAT THEY & their children be returned to the FLDS compound & the husbands (who were in prison yet) it is the ONLY life they’ve ever known & their “religious tenets” DEMAND they be with their husbands.
Don’t think FBI will try to “shake up” COS …unless something major happens & more skeletons fall out of the closet. Danny Masterson is a GOOD start.
Yes indeed Balletlady.
Every time there is a big scandal that hits all the news media sites, it can just be good for our side. By the way, by “our side”, I mean the people who are trying to orchestrate the termination of this filthy disgusting criminal organization.
Mike and Leah made a great start with their TV show, “Aftermath”. But now, every time that another scandal erupts and another monster in this cult takes a fall, I think it just makes it easier for the next scandal to erupt and the next legal action to go against the cult.
Very similar to how Cosby was taken down. It started off with one brave lady coming forward and speaking out. Then more and more started to “pile on”. It was a fabulous and exciting process and I am so happy to see it now happening to this creepy cult.
We may not be able to predict just when it will fall. But we can predict that a great many people will have a very big party when it does!
Seems to me there is an endless supply of skeletons out there and they are just waiting to fall out of the closet and squash this cult flat!
It’s sickening to think these lovely ladies would have to be subjected to “religious arbitration” where they’d have to tell their rape story over and over and over again while these mostly men I am sure sit there & sneer at them.
I can’t imagine have to relive that over and over again as the arbitration group would INSIST they hear the stories so they can pick out every little word that’s been changed or every tiny detail that was missed or accidentally forgotten by the VICTIM…& then hear “Well, YOU didn’t mention that the LAST time, DID YOU”???
I hope with every fiber of my being that ALL THREE ladies & possibly more step forward & hit this out of the ballpark.
To see or even THINK about Danny Masterson standing or sitting in a Court of Law while the Judge “looks him up & down” while EVERY sick detail is revealed……I imagine it’s hard for HIM to sit still…….
IF this is successful, I fully expect MORE skeletons to be revealed……& more brought to before Court to face JUSTICE
Hey Davey Boy….Where the HELL is Shelley….What have you DONE with her that no one has seen or talked to her in YEARS….MORE THAN A DECADE…………
WHY would ANY LEGAL AUTHORITY take the word of another human being that “Shelly is alive & well & doesn’t wish to step forward & show herself to prove it”…
What is BADLY NEEDED is for some High Powered Lawyers to DEMAND that Shelley M be PRESENTED to a COURT OF LAW to PROVE she is alive & well….
Geeez….Skyler23….just THINK how many murderers could get away with the crime of murder if the VICTIM is NEVER SEEN ALIVE AGAIN….but WE ARE TOLD THEY ARE ALIVE & WISH TO REMAIN OUT OF SIGHT……….
Stay well friend Sklyer23, can’t wait to hear what happens to Danny Boy…..