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Daniel Montalvo's Scientology Lawsuit Claims False Imprisonment, Child Labor Violations, Lack of Education While Growing Up in L.A.-Based Org

The Church of Scientology responds, denies the allegations, after the jump.

Not exactly the glory days for the L.A.-based Church of Scientology.

A New Yorker piece on director Paul Haggis' split with the organization reported last month that the FBI was investigating allegations of abuse and human trafficking within Scientology.

Now a young man who says he escaped from a Scientology workplace in the city of Commerce after growing up in the church has made some bombshell claims -- including disregard for child welfare laws, failure to report child neglect to authorities, false imprisonment and violation of labor laws -- in a pair of suits filed in L.A. against Scientology and the publisher of its L. Ron Hubbard books.

Montalvo was 19 when he made a break for it last year with the help of a Scientology defector. He ended up in Florida. When he tried to contact his parents, however, a Scientologist allegedly talked him into returning to L.A.

While in L.A., the suit claims, Montalvo was falsely imprisoned.

Scientologists picked him up, took him to an Century City attorney's office and grilled him before taking him to the East L.A. sheriff's office, where he was arrested on suspicion of grand theft.

Sheriff's officials told the Weekly Montalvo had been accused of taking five hard drives worth $200 each, which would put them above the California threshold for grand theft.

The main lawsuit (PDF) against Scientology (it names the church's elite Sea Org, Montalvo's former school, and several individuals, including his parents) states that Montalvo actually took information on the drives that he deemed "necessary to protect himself" from the church.

The suit says that Montalvo grew up in the church since age 5 and didn't ever get a proper education about American history or government: "The Sea Org instructed [his parents] Luis and Veronica to surrender physical custody of Daniel to the Sea Org and its agents," according the suit:

Also among its other claims:

-The church had Montalvo sign two billion-year contracts to stay with it.

-As a child he was prohibited from consuming news media or going to book stores.

-He sometimes worked more than 100 hours a week at a rate of $35 to $50 per week.

-His education was limited to one day a week of class time.

-He moved to L.A. in 2006 and lived in "communal, barracks-style housing at the Scientology Center on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood under the full-time supervision of the Sea Org and its agents."

-He did Sea Org construction work, including operating scissor lifts, for $25 a week at the age of 15.

-He operated forklifts and a notching machine with a guillotine blade when he started working at Bridge Publications (publisher of those L. Ron Hubbard books) in Commerce in 2007. Once while operating the notch machine his right index finger was cut off between his top and middle knuckle.

-In that incident he was allegedly driven to a hospital, where he was coached not to mention working for Scientology: "The Sea Org agent instructed Daniel to tell the doctor he was working as a volunteer," the suit claims. The bill has yet to be paid, according tot he suit. He was put back to work in two days.

-Montalvo was allegedly forced to work past midnight regularly, wake up at 6 a.m., do push-ups and dig ditches.

The suits are going for punitive and compensatory damages as well as attorneys' fees and more. But no cash amount has been attached to the suits just yet.

We'll stay tuned.

Update: Responding to a request for comment by Catholic Online, the Church of Scientology states:

The allegations reported by the media on this case against the Church of Scientology are unfounded and will be proven to be false. You should be advised that similar charges against the Church were recently dismissed with prejudice by a Federal District Court in Los Angeles and the Church was awarded its costs. When all of the underlying facts emerge we are confident that his complaint, like the recently dismissed federal action will suffer the same fate.

First posted at 7:06 a.m. on Monday, March 7.

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