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TORONTO CHURCH FACES HEAVY FINE SCIENTOLOGY BRANCH IS CONVICTED OF SPYING ON POLICE, OTHERS

TORONTO CHURCH FACES HEAVY FINE SCIENTOLOGY BRANCH IS CONVICTED OF SPYING ON POLICE, OTHERS

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Toronto's Church of Scientology faces a $1 million fine, and three former staff members face jail terms as a result of convictions against the church and its members for spying on Canadian law enforcement officials, government and private agencies.

Four other church members have been fined or discharged for convictions of criminal breach of trust.

According to court records, Scientology's Guardian Office in Toronto ran a spy ring from 1974 to 1976 that infiltrated Revenue Canada, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Ontario Provincial Police, Metro Police, the provincial attorney general's office, the Canadian Mental Health Association, the Ontario Medical Association and two law firms.

Crown Attorney James Stewart told Ontario Justice James Southey that the church has received "considerable" financial assistance from its Los Angeles-based parent church and asked the court to impose a fine of "at least" $1 million.

"It looks as if the Church of Scientology does have the ability to raise substantial funds from sister organizations," Stewart said, noting the non-profit church has spent almost $4 million on legal and professional services since 1991, despite a cry of poverty.

Stewart also is seeking jail sentences of six months for church "case officer" Jacqueline Matz and 60 to 90 days for Scientology "plants" Janice Wheeler and Donald Whitmore.

Defense lawyer Clayton Ruby accused Stewart of trying to "crush" the church with the million-dollar fine. He said the church is "virtually insolvent."

Colleague Marlys Edward presented unaudited statements claiming the church has a deficit of $8.8 million and that its $6 million Yonge Street headquarters has been fully mortgaged and the money spent.

But Stewart told the court that one of two mortgages, worth almost $3 million, is owed to Scientology's "Mother Church" in Los Angeles.

The Los Angeles parent church has also helped defray legal costs, Stewart said.

The church has 7,000 members in the Metro Toronto area, Ruby said, of which 300 are considered active.

Southey has reserved sentencing as he considers the novel concept of fining a non-profit religious organization.

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