Calif. couple sues over donations to Scientologists; claim money never went to intended causes

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A California couple has filed a lawsuit claiming the Church of Scientology duped them into giving hundreds of thousands of dollars for causes that were misrepresented.

Luis and Maria Garcia of Irvine, Calif., filed the federal lawsuit Wednesday in Tampa against several church-affiliated organizations.

Among the accusations is that they were repeatedly strong-armed into supporting disaster relief efforts only to find the money never went where it was supposed to. Attorney Theodore Babbitt says it was an elaborate scheme that ultimately benefited the church coffers and the pockets of its leader.

Church spokeswoman Pat Harney said it had not yet been served with the lawsuit, but challenged any contention that money was misappropriated.