The Church of Scientology "duped" two members into donating £265,000 on the pretence it would go to worthy causes, according to a lawsuit filed in Florida.
California-based Luis and Maria Garcia, members of the church for 28 years, have filed the complaint in federal court in Tampa, naming trusts and charitable organisations linked to the controversial church, AP reported.
The lawsuit says: "The church, under the leadership of David Miscavige, has strayed from its founding principles and morphed into a secular enterprise whose primary purpose is taking people's money."
The Church of Scientology is subject to a lawsuit in Florida
The couple, who left the church in 2010 due to conflict of opinion with Miscavige, claim they were asked to donate sums totalling more than £265,000.
According to the Tampa Bay Times, the Garcias allege that, over the years, the church redirected hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations the couple had earmarked specifically for the construction of a massive "Super Power" building in downtown Clearwater, Florida.
But they allege they were also asked to fund campaigns for disaster relief and ending child pornography, all of which went to line the pockets of the church.
Church spokesman Pat Harney said in a statement that the church had no comment on an impending lawsuit.
"We understand from media inquiries this has something to do with fundraising and we can unequivocally state all funds solicited are used for the charitable and religious purposes for which they were donated."
Mr Garcia told Tampa Bay Online that the church's requests for money were relentless, and other members he knew had taken out credit cards and mortgages to keep giving donations. "They never would take no for an answer. They would just not back off," he said.
"I came to the conclusion that the church had departed from its original ideals and that I had been deceived with regard to all my donations all these years. I found out that these causes were not really true. I had been lied to and that is the basis for this lawsuit."
The couple's lawyer Theodore Babbitt said similar claims from other ex-Scientologists would be forthcoming, and that the Garcia's still had faith in the principles of Scientology, but were furious with the direction in which Miscavige, a close friend of actor Tom Cruise, had taken the church.
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