Mark Chauppetta, Private Eye Who Worked for Scientology at the time of the South Park Investigation: "I'm a Fucking Mercenary"
Just got off the phone with Mark Chauppetta, a private investigator who has done work for the Church of Scientology, sifting through the trash of the church's perceived enemies.
Mark Chauppetta, comparing notes with a certain presidential candidate
Chauppetta worked for Scientology for several years, including the time the church was investigating South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, in 2006. (Chauppetta says he wasn't personally involved in the South Park operation, but added that he wouldn't confirm it even if that was the case.)
I told Chauppetta that our readers have been fascinated with leaked internal documents which suggest that Scientology paid private investigators to case the South Park offices, sift through Parker and Stone's trash, and also to pull the trash of their friends, such as actors John Stamos and Rebecca Romijn.
After the jump, Chauppetta explains what it was investigators were looking for in the trash of Scientology's enemies.
"I do a lot of trash-pulling for a lot of different clients," he says. "You're looking for a Post-it, an envelope, anything that would give you a name, anything. You look for anything but a bloody tampon and a banana peel," Chauppetta told me by phone from the Boston area, where he operates.
I asked him for an example of a specific item he found in a person's trash that had an impact on a case he was involved in.
"There are people who have left bank statements and things like that in the trash that has led to certain decisions in probate and family court. When it comes to them writing things on their financial disclosures that are inaccurate," he explained.
"I pull trash for everyone. I recommend it to a lot of different clients," Chauppetta says.
In the days since the Patriot Act, some kinds of document searches are tougher for private eyes, Chauppetta tells me. He says searching through a target's trash has become a more useful and reliable tool.
About ten years ago, he tells me, Scientology seemed to be blindsided by the Internet and what was being said about the church online. For several years -- including 2006, when the South Park operation was going on -- Chauppetta says he was a highly thought of operative for the church.
"They handed me a copy of Dianetics when I first started doing work for them, and I just threw it in the trash. It didn't catch my attention," he says. "As long as they paid me in a timely fashion, I wasn't going to judge. I'm a fucking mercenary.
"I give the Church of Scientology props. It's funny, I had a potential client call me who wanted some background done on certain people. You could call these people a borderline religious organization, a borderline cult. I told them they could take an example from Scientology, because they seem to do it right when it comes to gathering data."
I asked him if he could characterize the kind of work the church asked him to do. "Most of the cases I worked on were doing background information on ex-members who were saying things about them that weren't pleasant," he answered.
"As far as the church goes, I just turned over what I found to them, and I didn't know what they did with it. I was just a grunt for them," he added. "I was just a soldier. As long as it was legal and ethical I didn't have a problem."
We're learning that 2006 seemed to be a particularly busy year for Scientology investigations, with seemingly dozens of different perceived enemies around the country being looked at. Today, however, with Scientology's numbers dwindling, only a few key targets seem to be getting the full-force private investigator routine (Marty Rathbun in Texas, Mike Rinder and Robert Almblad in Florida, Jason Beghe in California, and Marc Headley in Colorado are the chief ones that come immediately to mind.)
When I mentioned that Scientology's fortunes seem to have declined, and with it the church's resources for investigating, Chauppetta said that jibed with his own experience.
"I haven't done anything for them in a few years. I don't know if it's the recession or because they don't have something in the Boston area. I know it's not because of my work. I was highly recognized for what I do," he says.
In May, we wrote that Chauppetta had given an interview to Howard Stern, who asked him (in less detail) about working for Scientology. Chauppetta said he didn't get quite the boost in business from that interview that he was hoping for.
He did wonder, however, if Scientology might have been irked. "After the Stern interview, I thought, they're probably pulling my trash now," he says.
In that case, when one suspects that the church is snooping into one's affairs, what should one do?
"Shred everything," he answered.
"They can pull my trash if they want to. They might find some dirty tissues when I'm rubbing one out in the office, but that's about it."
The Top 25 People Crippling Scientology
#1: L. Ron Hubbard
#2: David Miscavige
#3: Marty Rathbun
#4: Tom Cruise
#5: Joe Childs and Tom Tobin
#7: Mark Bunker
#8: Mike Rinder
#9: Jason Beghe
#10: Lisa McPherson
#11: Nick Xenophon (and other public servants)
#12: Tommy Davis (and other hapless church executives)
#13: Janet Reitman (and other journalists)
#14: Tory Christman (and other noisy ex-Scientologists)
#15: Andreas Heldal-Lund (and other old time church critics)
#16: Marc and Claire Headley, escapees of the church's HQ
#17: Jefferson Hawkins, the man behind the TV volcano
#18: Amy Scobee, former Sea Org executive
#19: The Squirrel Busters (and the church's other thugs and goons)
#20: Trey Parker and Matt Stone (and other media figures)
#21: Kendrick Moxon, attorney for the church
#22: Jamie DeWolf (and other L. Ron Hubbard family members)
#23: Ken Dandar (and other attorneys who litigate against the church)
#24: David Touretzky (and other academics)
#25: Xenu, galactic overlord
Tony Ortega is the editor-in-chief of The Village Voice. Since 1995, he's been writing about Scientology at several publications.
Keep up on all of our New York news coverage at this blog, Runnin' Scared
SCIENTOLOGY IN THE VILLAGE VOICE
[Scientology spokesman Tommy Davis secretly recorded discussing "disconnection"]
[Benjamin Ring, LA deputy sheriff, wants you to spend your 401K on Scientology]
[Scientologists: How many of them are there, anyway?]
[Scientology hates clean ice: The "Fair Game" operation that should turn your stomach]
[Scientology hates clean ice, part 2: Another target, and the web as weapon]
MARTY RATHBUN AND THE SIEGE OF SOUTH TEXAS
[Scientology has Rathbun arrested] | [Rathbun and Mark Bunker reveal surprising ties]
In Germany with Ursula Caberta: [Announcing plans] | [Press conference] | [Making news about Tom Cruise, Bill Clinton, and Tony Blair] | [Post-trip interview]
The Squirrel Busters: [Goons with cameras on their heads] | [Rathbun's open letter to neighbors] | [Ingleside on the Bay, Texas rallies to Rathbun's cause] | [Squirrel Buster's claim to be making a "documentary"] | [VIDEO: "On a Boat"] | ["Anna" sent to creep out Monique Rathbun] | [Squirrel Busters go hillbilly] | [A videographer blows the whistle on the goon squad] | [Ed Bryan, OT VIII, shows the power of Scientology's highest levels]
SCIENTOLOGY SPYING AND "FAIR GAME"
[Secret Scientology documents spell out spying operation against Marc Headley]
[Scientology's West U.S. spies list revealed] | [Scientology's enemies list: Are you on it?]
Spy operation against Washington Post writer Richard Leiby: [Part 1] | [Part 2]
[A Scientology spy comes clean: Paulien Lombard's remarkable public confession]
[Scientology advertises for writers in Freedom magazine]
[Accidental leak shows Scientology spy wing plans to "handle" the Voice]
[Lori Hodgson and Disconnection: "No one's going to take my eternity away"]
SCIENTOLOGY AND CELEBRITIES
["Tom Cruise told me to talk to a bottle"] | [Tom Cruise likes coconut cake] | [Tom Cruise has a sense of humor] | ["Tom Cruise not a kook!"] | [Paulette Cooper on Tom Cruise]
[Paul Haggis, director of Crash, issues an ultimatum, leaves the church]
[Character actor Jason Beghe defects noisily] | [Actor Michael Fairman reveals his "suppressive person" declaration] | [Michael Fairman talks to the Voice]
[Giovanni Ribisi as David Koresh: Scientology-Branch Davidian link makes sense]
[Russell Brand weds ex-Scientologists in wild ceremony] | [Skip Press on Haggis]
[Placido Domingo Jr.: Scientology's retaliation is "scary and pathetic"]
Grant Cardone, NatGeo's "Turnaround King": [Doing Scientology's dirty work?] | [Milton Katselas complained about Cardone's smear job] | [Cardone runs to Huffpo]
[Philip Boyd, Saving Grace actor, rips "the business that is Scientology"]
JANET REITMAN'S INSIDE SCIENTOLOGY
[Our review of Inside Scientology] | [An interview with Janet Reitman] | [A report from Reitman's first book tour appearance] | [At the Half-King: Reitman not afraid]
[Scientology doesn't like Inside Scientology] | [Q&A at Washington Post]
[A roundup of Reitman's print reviews, and why isn't she on television more?]
HUGH URBAN'S THE CHURCH OF SCIENTOLOGY
EX-SCIENTOLOGISTS SPEAK OUT
[Marc Headley: "Tom Cruise told me to talk to a bottle"] | [The Nancy Many interview]
[Sympathy for the Devil: Tory Christman's Story] | [Jeff Hawkins' Counterfeit Dreams]
[86 Million Thin Dimes: The Lawrence Wollersheim Saga] | [Mike Rinder on spying]
[Scientology dodges a bullet in Australia] | [Scientology exec Jan Eastgate arrested]
[All hell breaks loose in Israel] | [Scientology sees fundraising gold in the UK riots]
[Aussie former rugby pro Chris Guider calls David Miscavige "toxic" and "violent"]
[Stephen Cox, UK church newbie, pledges 20K pounds] | [Biggi Reichert: A German Lisa McPherson?] | [The Birmingham trove: 7,000 internal e-mails]
ODD VIDEOS AND ODDER NEWS
[Scientology singalong, "We Stand Tall"] | [Captain Bill Robertson and "Galactic Patrol"]
[Scientology wins a major award!] | [Scientology wants your money: Meet Dede!]
[Birmingham in the House! The "Ideal" dance mix] | [Scientology and the Nation of Islam]
[When Scientology was hip] | [Sad: David Miscavige makes fun of his own fundraisers]
[Freedom magazine parodies The New Yorker. Hilarity ensues.]
[Scientology surf report: Anonymous parties outside the New York "org"]
THE VIEW INSIDE THE BUBBLE
[A scientologist's letter to the Voice and its readers] | [Scientology silent birth]
[Tad Reeves: Scientology might listen to this guy] | [More Tad Reeves and family]
[Scientology never forgets: A heartwarming telemarketing holiday miracle]
[Scientology High School, Dating and Super Powers!]