By now, most people have learned that the nation of France has decided to prosecute Scientology's French organization, along with seven of its top managers, on fraud and drugs charges. News articles about the case usually mention that Scientology was aquitted of fraud charges there in 2002; sometimes they mention that Scientology officials were convicted of fraud in Lyon in 1997 and in Marseille in 1999. Surprisingly, however, the fraud conviction of the cult's founder, L. Ron Hubbard, on fraud charges in 1978, does not seem to be mentioned in any of the English-language reports.
After a seven-year public inquiry and a lengthy trial, the Paris Tribunal found four top Scientologists, including Hubbard, guilty of making fraudulent claims that physical cures and professional success could be achieved through Scientology. Hubbard, who did not attend the trial, and had already fled the country, was sentenced to four years imprisonment.
The judge concluded that the facts and statements by the witnesses were “ample proof” of the veracity of the charge.
Quoting Hubbard's own words, the judge found that Scientology made false promises with the sole aim of “increasing the financial revenue.”
An article from the Catholic Sentinel reports that “the court examined evidence of large profits made by an organization which declares itself to be non-profit, the psycho-therapeutic nature of a treatment dispensed by people with no medical qualifications, and the claim made by Scientology to be capable of curing some 70 percent of human illnesses,”1 such as radioactive burn from the effects of an atomic bomb, etc.
Hubbard never served his prison sentence because he was essentially on the run from the law, sailing in the Caribbean on his yacht Apollo, trying to avoid not only French authorities but the US authorities as well. In 1978, the US Federal Government was preparing for the trial of Hubbard's wife Mary Sue, and numerous other Scientology officials, on conspiracy and burglary charges. Hubbard, along with Scientology
super-lawyer Kendrick Moxon, were named as “unindicted co-conspirators” in that case.2 This means the federal prosecutors were very sure they were involved, but couldn't quite generate the evidence for a sure conviction. Mary Sue and the others ended up serving several years in federal prison. In addition, the Internal Revenue Service had evidence that Hubbard was taking millions of dollars “off the top” of Scientology profits, and hiding it in overseas banks.3
Hubbard never returned to France, and was banned from the United Kingdom because he would not discuss his conviction with British authorities. Hubbard died in 1986 on his secluded California ranch.
1. Anonymous (17 March 1978). “Scientology Leaders Convicted of Fraud.” Catholic Sentinel
2. Robert W. Welkos; Joel Sappell (24 June 1990). “Burglaries and Lies Paved a Path to Prison“, Los Angeles Times
3. Richard Behar (6 May 1991). “The Thriving Cult of Greed and Power.” Time magazine
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