Scientology turncoat taken to task
By DEBORAH O'NEIL, Times Staff Writer
ST. PETERSBURG -- New England millionaire Robert Minton came forward recently to say he wanted to set the record straight about lies he told in a wrongful-death lawsuit against the Church of Scientology.
But his confessions and testimony may bring him a heap of new legal problems.
Judge Susan Schaeffer said Wednesday that Minton could be in serious trouble with her, the State Attorney's Office and the Internal Revenue Service.
"I think Mr. Minton is in all manner of trouble," Schaeffer said. "Mr. Minton has perjury problems. Mr. Minton has contempt problems. . . . I think Mr. Minton has IRS problems."
Schaeffer's comments came during the ongoing hearing on the church's request that the case be dismissed. The civil lawsuit blames the church for the 1995 death of Scientologist Lisa McPherson.
Minton was not in court Wednesday. His attorney, Bruce Howie, was in the courtroom but did not speak.
Accusations of wrongdoing in the lawsuit have flown during the proceeding. Schaeffer made it clear Wednesday that the allegations will be brought to the attention of prosecutors.
"When this hearing is over," Schaeffer said, "I'm going to turn the matter over to the state attorney because there are all kinds of allegations of criminal acts from both sides."
For five years, Minton, once a vocal Scientology critic, gave Tampa attorney Ken Dandar as much as $2-million to fund the case against the church. But in recent months, Minton has said he lied under oath at Dandar's urging.
The church has relied, in part, on Minton's statements to accuse Dandar of serious professional misconduct and to ask Schaeffer to throw out the case.
Dandar has denied the allegations and said the church is extorting Minton.
Minton has filed affidavits recanting some of his earlier testimony. When he testified recently in court, however, Schaeffer uncovered more lies that Minton had not corrected in those affidavits.
"Maybe I need someone here to advise this man of his rights," Schaeffer said at one point during the hearing.
Minton also testified about two financial arrangements that funneled $800,000 of his money from Europe to the Lisa McPherson Trust, an anti-Scientology organization he founded in Clearwater. Later, Minton pocketed a large portion of the money.
The money was transferred that way, Minton said, to keep Scientology guessing about the source of the trust's money.
Schaeffer noted that it was "a fairly elaborate scheme" to hide the money from Scientology and "whatever else it is that you're trying to made hide it from."
The church suspected Minton was laundering money, said longtime Scientology attorney Monique Yingling, who testified Wednesday.
Minton, she said, would know better than to create a direct trail from laundered funds to himself. Rather, she said, Minton probably was trying to hide the money from Scientology.
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