Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlatans

Clients of deprogrammer Rick Ross call him a savior. Perhaps that's why people he's branded cult leaders want to crucify him.

Two months before David Block escaped from Mount Carmel and underwent deprogramming, he and Rick Ross had spoken on the telephone. Block says Ross' advice helped him to break away from Koresh.

"Koresh was going after a 14-year-old girl because she didn't believe in Psalm 45 (the Scripture Koresh used to justify his polygamy). But the 14-year-old said she didn't want to do that. Koresh was coming after her, and something just snapped in me. I thought, 'If this is God, I don't want to have anything to do with him.'"

Block drove nonstop from Mount Carmel to his brother's house in Los Angeles, called Rick Ross, and asked for his counseling.

Once the deprogramming began, Block says, he was approached by a private investigator who said she had been hired by Scientologists. CAN's Priscilla Coates, at whose home the deprogramming occurred, confirmed Block's account.

"Shortly after one of the deprogramming sessions, I went home to my brother's house and someone was sitting in a car about two houses away," Block says. "I watched her as she came over and asked me if I was my brother. No, I'm David Block. 'Oh, even better,' she said. 'Do you know Rick Ross?' she asked me. 'Do you know he was convicted of a jewelry theft?'"

Block says the investigator told him she was working for J.J. Gaw Investigations, which in turn had been retained by Kendrick Moxon's law firm, called Bowles and Moxon at that time. "She told me she was in contact with David Koresh and the compound, and she told me they were concerned about me," Block says.

Jon Gaw tells New Times that the female investigator was, in fact, from his agency. While he would not say that his investigator's contact with Block was at the behest of Bowles and Moxon, he confirmed that his agency was working for Moxon's law firm at the time of Block's deprogramming. Gaw also says he personally was in contact with the Branch Davidians in Waco at about that time.

Meanwhile, Block says he got calls directly from the Waco compound. Koresh allowed a friend of Block's named Margarita, who would later perish in the fire, to call him in Los Angeles. On one occasion, she told him that a private investigator had called Koresh to say that Block was being deprogrammed.

He says he tried to convince her that he hadn't been kidnaped, that he'd hired Ross voluntarily.

In January 1993, Ross was contacted by agents from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms who were investigating Koresh.

"I told the ATF that the group was very volatile," Ross says. "I reminded them of the gun battle in 1987 [between Koresh and the previous Branch Davidian leader]. I described cults in general, and talked about David Koresh's control over the group. I told them to be very cautious."

When he turned on his television the afternoon of February 28, 1993, Ross says he was shocked by images of the failed BATF raid on the compound.

"Why would they do something like that with a group [they knew] was so heavily armed?" Ross asks.

Ross made two trips to Waco during the siege and one after the fire. During negotiations with Koresh, the FBI consulted with Ross, as well as 60 other experts.

"I told them to work through the Bible and don't upset Koresh. Accept that he's the lamb of God and give him a way to come out with his head up as a cult leader."

Yet, he concedes, "If they had followed my suggestions to the letter, it probably would not have resulted in a more peaceful resolution."

Ross is convinced that Koresh was determined to die. "It's clear he wanted everyone to stay," he says.

In January, Freedom magazine, which is published by the Church of Scientology, carried an article suggesting that Ross was responsible for the deaths at Waco.

David Block, who left the Mount Carmel compound less than a year before it was raided by the BATF, says he's grateful for Ross' counseling. For a time after the raid, Block was inundated with requests for interviews. "I didn't want to talk about Waco," he says. He asked Ross not to call.

"Eventually, I called him," Block says, "because I heard Scientology was really coming after him."

Rick Ross says groups he opposes are beginning to work together, despite their doctrinal differences.

When a local Christian church found out that Ross would be an expert in a trial involving one of its members, for example, it submitted documents about Ross' criminal history that had come from a Scientology publication.

And Steven Kamp of the Church of Immortal Consciousness admits that the dossier of Ross documents that he gives to the press was put together by Kendrick Moxon, the Scientologist attorney representing Jason Scott.

Kamp says Ross knew too little about the Church of Immortal Consciousness when he called it a destructive cult for a KNXV-TV Channel 15 piece in August.

Ross defends his characterization.
"It is a new group and the file on them isn't an inch thick yet. But the evidence that's coming in is very solid and indicates that this is a destructive cult," he says.

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