The Church of Scientology is being investigated for human trafficking by the Department of Homeland Security, according to the former editor in chief of the Village Voice, Tony Ortega.
Ortega said, "Agents with Homeland Security working out of its Tampa office have been interviewing former members of the church who have information about the way children are used as laborers in Scientology's Sea Organization and other matters."
Ortega said the department has been investigating the church for at least eight months. He published the information on his blog, TonyOrtega.org, after speaking with four ex-Scientologists who said they were interviewed by Homeland Security.
This isn't the first time the organization has been accused of human trafficking. Last year, Lawrence Wright, a staff writer at theNew Yorker, wrote a 26-page article about former Scientologist Paul Haggis and revealed that the organization was being investigated. Haggis, a filmmaker who had been in the church for almost thirty-five years, was doing research on the organization at the same time the FBI was conducting its own investigation.
In December 2009, two agents, Tricia Whitehill and Valeria Venegas, interviewed former "Sea Org" members in California about abuse suffered at the hands of David Miscavige, the leader of the Church of Scientology. Two members, Marc and Claire Headley, had filed lawsuits against Miscavige in 2005, saying that the working conditions at the Gold Base, an outpost near Hemet, a town eighty miles southeast of Los Angeles, violated human trafficking and labor laws.
When Wright spoke to Haggis, they discussed some of the other controversies Scientology has been involved in including the death of Lisa McPherson. As we previously reported, the Church of Scientology was accused of spending $30 million to cover up McPherson's death while she was in the care of other Scientologists. Her parents later sued the organization.
A spokesperson for the Church of Scientology refuted the claims to RadarOnline, saying:
"The allegations referred to by Tony Ortega are the same false claims that have been raised by a small group of disaffected anti-Scientologists for years. When two such former Scientologists, Marc and Claire Headley, attempted to bring a lawsuit alleging such claims, the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals found those claims to have been both without factual basis and barred by the religious freedom clauses of the First Amendment, and awarded more than $42,000 in costs to the Church."