Double Crossed

The Church of Scientology has a reputation for ruthlessly going after its enemies. Robert Cipriano claims Scientologists rewarded him for helping them do just that. Now he's turned on them.

According to church spokeswoman Karin Pouw, only about 10 percent of Scientologists have attained OT III. Because she's in the majority of members who haven't reached that level, she couldn't talk about OT III to New Times. Pouw became angry at questions about the church's theology: "So what if we believe Jesus is a figment of the imagination?"

A former Scientologist explains his reaction to reading the OT III story for the first time: "Everything is done on such a gradient in Scientology; they don't mention past lives in the beginning. The incremental indoctrination prepares you for the Xemu story."

Former scientologists say the church is careful to prevent newer church members from seeing the OT III materials -- revealing the Xenu story too early to believers, they maintain, would only encourage many parishioners to leave.

Robert Cipriano

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But thanks to Graham Berry and Steven Fishman, the tale was put in a Florida federal court file in May 1993.

"The church has always accused me of -- or credited me with -- the filing of the Fishman declaration. It represented the unplugging of the genie," Berry says. "I expected Scientology to rush in to court to prevent it. But nothing happened for six months. Then the church woke up, realized what had happened, and then sought unsuccessfully to have [the files] sealed."

Before long, copies of the OT materials were proliferating like body thetans all over the Internet. Scientology howled "copyright infringement" and began a long battle with computer users who had seen Berry and Fishman's court filing and disseminated the OT materials. Dozens of high-profile lawsuits resulted.

A few months after the filing of the Fishman declaration, Berry says he became aware that Eugene Ingram and other private investigators were stepping up interviews of his colleagues and former clients.

Ingram admits he was dispatched to find everyone who could provide information about the attorney. And in May 1994, he followed his leads to the Manhattan apartment of Robert Cipriano.

What Robert Cipriano learned when he entered his name into that search engine in 1997 was that he had become ordnance in the arsenal that Scientology was using in its war with Graham Berry.

The 1994 declaration he had reluctantly provided Eugene Ingram (the one that was supposed to be on file with the LAPD, probably never to be used) was cited practically every time his name came up and always in conjunction with statements about the Church of Scientology. Cipriano, who claims he had barely heard of Scientology at the time, says Ingram had never mentioned the church.

"Holy shit!" Cipriano says. "It implicated me living in the gay world, and it was all over the Internet."

Cipriano demanded to see Ingram right away. Cipriano says it was only at that meeting at the Warehouse Restaurant in Marina del Rey, three years after their first session in New York, that Ingram admitted he was a private investigator, not an LAPD detective, and that he worked for a law firm that wanted to know everything it could about Graham Berry. Cipriano says Ingram mentioned that he was aware of a new warrant that had been issued in New Jersey for Cipriano's arrest because he had stopped making payments on his debt.

"That shut me down again," Cipriano says.

At a subsequent meeting, Ingram told Cipriano that Berry might sue him for the 1994 declaration. "Ingram told me that he worked for the Church of Scientology and a law firm that represented the Church of Scientology. Mr. Ingram told me that Mr. Berry was representing numerous people who did not like the Church of Scientology."

Cipriano tells New Times that at one point he asked Ingram if he were a Scientologist. He says Ingram replied: "Never in a million years."

Ingram then introduced him to Kendrick Moxon, who met them in lobby of a Glendale office building. According to the August declaration, Moxon said that he would represent Cipriano at no cost if Berry decided to sue.

Moxon says he has no idea how Cipriano's 1994 declaration ended up on the Internet. He denies that Scientology put it there and suggests that Berry disseminated it himself to create a controversy.

Berry did file suit against Cipriano in March 1998. Eventually, after the two had corresponded by e-mail, Berry offered to settle the matter for $1,000, writing that "this opening offer is so generous, it will not be repeated and may be withdrawn at any time -- especially when I ascertain your income, assets, and expectations." Berry says now he suspected Cipriano had been coerced into making the 1994 declaration and was merely trying to draw him out.

Cipriano sent back a short e-mail reply: "Why are you doing this? You know what the truth is, and you know what I said was accurate. I am not a person to push around anymore like I was in the early eighties."

Those words are proof, Kendrick Moxon insists, that Cipriano was always telling the truth about his claims of Berry's pedophilia.

But Cipriano counters that it's proof of just the opposite -- that he continued to tell lies about Graham Berry.

Cipriano says he was interested in settling things with Berry, so he wrote a letter to him and gave it to his attorney, Moxon, to forward. Berry and Cipriano say the letter never got beyond Moxon. Berry says he had no idea that Cipriano wanted to settle. Instead, the two sides prepared for war.

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