SCIENTOLOGY DENIED: Federal judge finds that Garcia fraud lawsuit can continue - 2014-05-02
Luis and Rocio Garcia Federal District Judge James D. Whittemore today issued an order denying a motion by Scientology that would have ended the fraud lawsuit brought last year by former church members Luis and Rocio Garcia, who say they were scammed for hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations.
The Garcias were longtime members who had been constantly hit up for increasing amounts in donations, and they claim they were lied to about how the money would be used. Today's order allows the Garcias to file an amended complaint in the lawsuit after dropping three of the five Scientology corporate entities they originally named in the lawsuit. The order also lifts a stay in the case, allowing the Garcias to move forward on discovery, and allowing Judge Whittemore to get back to the question of whether Scientology can force the case into arbitration.
The Garcia lawsuit had hit a snag when Scientology revealed that three of the five corporate entities that had been named defendants had trustees who lived in California, where the Garcias reside. Because the Garcias had filed the suit in Tampa, Florida, the California residence of those trustees meant that the suit violated a basic legal concept of "diversity jurisdiction" — the Garcias had simply filed the suit in the wrong venue, Scientology argued.