The hunt is on for David Miscavige, the fiery, controversial and elusive head of Scientology, who’s being sought by lawyers in a civil child trafficking suit brought by former church members in federal court.
The case involves three plaintiffs who once belonged to the sect’s notorious military-style Sea Org and who allege they were forced into the church as kids and had to work into adulthood for almost no pay. Valeska Paris, along with married couple Gawain and Laura Baxter, filed the complaint last year after quitting Sea Org more than a decade ago.
According to the plaintiffs’ lawyers, process servers have tried 27 times over four months to serve Miscavige in both Los Angeles, where Scientology has a formidable presence, as well as its headquarters in Clearwater, Fla., the Tampa Bay Times reported, citing court records. Security guards have repeatedly refused the documents, saying they don’t know where he is. A federal court judge in Tampa listened to attorneys from both sides on Jan. 20 and said she will issue a ruling sometime in the future about whether or not Miscavige can be considered served.
“Miscavige cannot be permitted to continue his gamesmanship,” one of the plaintiff’s attorneys, Neil Glazer, wrote in a court filing last month.
Former top-ranking Scientologists told The Post that 62-year-old Miscavige, who seized power after Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard died in 1986, is deathly afraid of going to court and will do anything to evade the tenacious attorneys who have been trying to serve him with papers. Veteran Scientology watchdog Tony Ortega reported as far back as 2019 that Miscavige may have “gone to ground” to avoid being served in a myriad of pending legal cases — including the Danny Masterson rape mistrial.
But he is not, they say, with his wife long-missing wife Shelly — who hasn’t been seen in public since August 2007 and is believed to still be living at Scientology’s isolated and heavily-guarded fortress, the Church of Spiritual Technology (CST), in rural Twin Peaks, California. Sources told The Post that David Miscavige is allegedly living in the gated Hacienda Gardens complex in Clearwater, which is owned by Scientology.
Numerous Scientology experts say that Miscavige’s current situation parallels that of Hubbard, who, after years of legal battles with the government and being on the receiving end of numerous civil suits, went on the lam in his motorhome and at a house in Northern California, where he was surrounded by security until he died.
“Miscavige is a recluse now — the same way Hubbard was at the end,” said Mike Rinder, the former media spokesman for Scientology and one of its highest-ranking executives before he left the church in 2007 in protest of Miscavige’s leadership style, pointing out how rarely Miscavige is seen in public or at church events.
“Hubbard abandoned his wife and never saw her again after 1982,” Rinder, the author of last year’s “A Billion Years: My Escape From a Life in the Highest Ranks of Scientology,” told The Post. “Hubbard turned her into a pariah and Mary Sue was kept in a house where [Scientologists] reported on her every day to Miscavige.”
Hubbard’s third wife, Mary Sue, once a major power in Scientology, took the fall for the organization in 1978 the aftermath of the infamous “Operation Snow White,” a massive effort by the church to infiltrate the government by flooding the IRS with undercover Scientologists. She served a year in prison and spent her last years under virtual house arrest in Los Angeles.
“Miscavige is completely echoing Hubbard,” said Karen de la Carriere, another former high-ranking Scientology executive of 40 years who was trained by Hubbard and who was married to Huber Jentzsch, the former longtime president of Scientology. “But unlike Hubbard there is no successor lined up. Miscavige, in his lust for power, smashed to a pulp any possible rivals. So there is no one to lead if anything happens to him.”
De la Carriere said Miscavige is his own worst enemy.
“He is so paranoid,” she told The Post. “He sees the FBI in his soup. He expects a bullet in his chest by someone somewhere so he has an entourage like a third world dictator. He doesn’t make a move without his security entourage. He has a very grandiose image of himself.”
As for Shelly, de la Carriere said that she’s been in the cult since she was a child and may not want or know how to escape the Twin Peaks bunker, even if she were allowed. De la Carriere first met her on Hubbard’s ship, the Apollo, which cruised around the Caribbean and other ports in the 1960s and ’70s.
“Shelly was on the Apollo with me when she was 11 or 12 years old [she’s now 62]. She studied with Hubbard,” de la Carriere said. She is like someone from the FLDS [fundamentalist Mormon sect]. They want to be a sister wife. They don’t know any better. They don’t think outside the box.”
Golden Globes host Jerrod Carmichael called out Tom Cruise during the Jan. 10 awards show, joking that the Hollywood Foreign Press Association should use the actor’s three returned gongs to help locate Shelly Miscavige.
Holding up Cruise’s Globes — which the “Top Gun” star famously returned to the HFPA in 2021 — Carmichael quipped: “I have a pitch. I think maybe we take these three things and exchange them for the safe return of Shelly Miscavige … “
At about the same time, former Scientologist Aaron Smith-Levin showed resurfaced drone footage on his Growing Up in Scientology YouTube channel of one of the church’s top secret bases in Twin Peaks, California.
“This is literally one of the most secretive Scientology bases in the world, and we can take a tour of it with drone footage. Incredible,” said Smith-Levin, a former Scientologist, about the Google Earth footage, which was originally posted on YouTube channel Angry Thetan five years ago.
Speculation about Shelly’s whereabouts and status have been rife for at least a decade.
Former Scientologist Leah Remini, a prominent critic of the organization, filed a missing person report about Shelly with LA police in 2013. A few days later, the LAPD said that they located Shelly and stated that she was not actually missing, so the case was closed. Attorneys for Scientology have claimed over the years that Shelly continues to be a dedicated Sea Org member and lives a private life.
“Today is Shelly Miscavige’s 62nd birthday,” Remini tweeted Jan. 18. “The last time Shelly was seen in public, she was 43. I hope I can wish Shelly a happy birthday in person one day. Until then, I will keep fighting for my friend’s freedom no matter what Scientology tries to do to me.”
One of the reasons for Remini’s departure from Scientology in 2013 is because she had first asked about Miscavige’s wife’s absence at the marriage of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes in November 2006, according to veteran Scientology journalist Tony Ortega who broke the story in 2013. “When she asked about it she was told to shut up, as if the question itself was out of line,” Ortega reported, adding that a church spokesperson told Remini: “You don’t have the f–king rank to ask about Shelly.”
Geoffrey Levin, 77, a music composer who left Scientology in 2018 after joining 46 years ago at age 18, said he underwent a serious depression for three years before his departure. He said he has heard from church members that Shelly may be enduring the same kind of depression. He said that, based on his experience, Scientology has no means to handle mental illness.
Levin remembers meeting Shelly way back before she vanished.
“She was way in the background when they were together,” said Levin, whose documentary, “Brothers Broken,” about the years he spent cut off from his brother who left Scientology, is showing at festivals. “Miscavige was so dominant. At the same time he could be very charming. He was a classic narcissist. His personality could just flip.”
Ortega recenly reported that, when Shelly lived with David on Sublett Road in Gilman Hot Springs, home of Gold Base, Scientology’s massive international headquarters 80 miles east of LA, she always had four or five beagles.
After Shelly vanished from public view in 2007, the dogs were still living there and cared for by Scientologist crew members. A former Scientologist familiar with the situation said life must be very tough for Shelly without her dogs.
“”I’m sure she was devastated,” the source told Ortega. “She was crazy about animals and nature. She preferred animals to people.”
“I saw her get in trouble,” former Scientologist John Brousseau told Remini on the actress’s “Aftermath” show about Scientology. “[Shelly] would disappear during portions of the day, and I sort of surmised that she was being security checked. I could see the terror in her eyes. I think she said something and Miscavige found out … and that was it. The axe fell. And then she just sort of disappeared very shortly thereafter. He’ll do everything he can to keep her wherever she is until she dies.”
The Church of Scientology did not respond to emails and calls from The Post.
Unless of course, David Miscavige dies first — or is somehow unable to lead the church.
The ex-Scientologists say that the pending child trafficking lawsuit may have Miscavige on the run, and the church may regret not grooming an heir.
“Miscavige was never actually Hubbard’s heir,” Rinder said. ” Miscavige seized his position. He was not given that position. He took it and eradicated everyone who was a rival to him.
There is no line of succession in Scientology, no plan if Miscavige got run over by a bus or had a heart attack. There would be mass confusion. Most potential candidates are old and have been disappeared.”
But don’t count Miscavige or Scientology out quite yet, warned de la Carriere.
“This won’t necessarily be the straw that breaks the camel’s back,” she said. “Instead what we’ve been seeing in the last 10 years is death by a thousand cuts. Then again what we’re seeing with the child trafficking claims is hitting an artery with this cult, not just a little vein.”
The Church of Scientology did not respond to emails and calls from The Post, nor did Miscavige’s Washington, DC-based lawyer Joseph Terry.