WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- A California couple has filed a lawsuit claiming the Church of Scientology duped them into giving hundreds of thousands of dollars for causes that were misrepresented.
Luis and Maria Garcia of Irvine, Calif., filed the federal lawsuit Wednesday in Tampa against several church-affiliated organizations.
Among the accusations is that they were repeatedly strong-armed into supporting disaster relief efforts only to find the money never went where it was supposed to.
Attorney Theodore Babbitt says it was an elaborate scheme that ultimately benefited the church coffers and the pockets of its leader.
Church spokeswoman Pat Harney said it had not yet been served with the lawsuit, but challenged any contention that money was misappropriated.
Here is the full statment from Harney:
"We have not been served. However, we understand from the media that this has something to do with fundraising and the church can unequivocally state all funds solicited are used for the charitable and religious purposes for which they were donated. To see the Church's world renowned humanitarian programs visit www.scientology.org. From the information we have gathered, this frivolous suit is filed by the same group of anti-Scientology apostates who recently lost another lawsuit and were ordered by federal court to pay the church more than $40,000. The statements we have seen in the media made about the church and its ecclesiastical leader are blatantly false and come from these same apostates."