Wednesday 15 April 2015

Tracing Danielle Ambert: the Lopez Affair II

Cults: France drops its guard
French police failed to track down three Scientologists for questioning over the 2006 suicide of Gloria Lopez: but at least one of them has maintained her links with Scientology. Now French daily Libération has weighed in to the battle.

Scientologists told French police investigating the death of one their members that they did not know where three key witnesses, all Scientologists, could be found. But one of them at least has stayed a part of the movement.

And now French newspaper Libération, in an astonishing five-page broadside, has cited the lack of progress in the case to illustrate the inertia they say is gripping the French authorities over the issue of cults.

Danielle Ambert is a person of interest in the December 2006 suicide of fellow Scientologist Gloria Lopez.

According to handwritten notes that Lopez left behind, Ambert acted as her financial adviser. When Lopez got a windfall of more than 200,000 euros from the sale of a property she had been gifted, it was Ambert who persuaded her to spend nearly all of it on Scientology courses.

Police here in France wanted to question her to get a clearer idea of what might have driven Lopez to kill herself. Senior Scientologists told investigators she had gone abroad – but that they did not know where she was.

But different sources, including public documents available in the United States, show that in the years following Lopez's death, Ambert spent much of her time in Clearwater, Florida, one of the movement's main hubs. And the latest evidence suggests she is on Freewinds, Scientology's cruise ship in the Caribbean.

Here's what we know about Danielle Ambert.

The entries in Kristi Wachter's database, based on Scientology's own publications, show that she has been a Scientologist at least since 1997. Entries in Scientology's business directory – listing members of the World Institute of Scientology Enterprises (WISE) – show that in the early 2000s she ran a business out of Marseille, on France's Mediterranean coast.

And an entry in issue N° 114 of Impact magazine, published in 2006, lists her as a Patron, which means she donated $40,000 to the cause – so she was not short of money.

Wachter's database also shows that as far back as 2004 Ambert had already completed Scientology's top auditing level, the new OT VIII, on Freewinds, the movement's cruise ship in the Caribbean. So when she left France after the death of Lopez, it was not to complete her journey up Scientology's Bridge to Total Freedom.

As an OTVIII – and with money to spare – Ambert was far from being a marginal figure on the French Scientology scene. But it was not simply because she had paid her own way up the Bridge: she also enjoyed a high profile because of her standing as a mission holder – and in Scientology, mission holders bring the money in.

In 2000, she opened her first mission in Marseille, on the French Mediterranean coast. (The previous year, a Marseille court had handed down fraud convictions against several senior Scientologists, including a past mission-holder there – so a vacancy had opened up.1)

A few years later she launched another mission in Avignon, about 60 miles away – an event marked by a story still available on a Scientology website. She had opened the first mission in Marseille, she explained, because “... it was time to do something to help my fellow man”.

Then, in the summer of 2006 – just months before the suicide of Gloria Lopez – she inaugurated another Scientology mission in southern France – this time in Montpellier.

For Scientologist and Mission Director, Danielle Ambert …, it has been a whirlwind of excitement and Scientology expansion in the South of France,” says a report at another Scientology website.

With guests arriving from Marseille, Clemont-Ferrand, Saint-Etienne, Avignon and as far as Paris, to attend the grand opening of France’s newest Scientology Mission, it was a extraordinary event signaling a bright new future for the Montpellier community,” it added.

Marseille, Avignon and Montpellier: a golden triangle of three Mediterranean missions and a “bright new future”.

But just a few months later, Ambert had left the country.

Following the paper trail

Danielle Ambert had persuaded Gloria Lopez to spend more than 200,000 euros on Scientology courses. Rather than buying an appartment for herself outright Lopez ended up having to take out a mortgage to buy one just outside Paris – in a suburb she did not know and a flat she hated.

This much is clear from Lopez's handwritten notes, which her family found at her apartment after her death. “Danielle Ambert is clearly involved,” Lopez's son, Gwenn Le Berre, told Infinite Complacency. “My mother implicates her directly.”

They also found Ambert's business card. (The address on the card, at Codolet, is a town about half an hour's drive from Avignon.)

But when French police asked Scientology officials where she was, they got nowhere, said Le Berre. One of them told police that “he had heard” that Ambert had gone abroad – but he did not say where. And when police requested information from Scientology officials in the United States, they got no help there either.

That does seem extraordinary given that Ambert was the toast of the French Scientology community in 2006: all the more extraordinary given that the paper trail leads straight to one of Scientology's main centres of activity.

Clearwater, Florida is home to Scientology's Flag Service Organisation which boasts well over 1,000 staff members. It is, says the movement:

...a religious retreat which serves as the spiritual headquarters for Scientologists from all over the world. It is the hub of the Scientology worldwide community, a dynamic, multilingual organization and is the largest single Church of Scientology in the world.2

On January 5, 2007 – a little over two weeks after Gloria Lopez's suicide – Danielle Ambert was in Clearwater, Florida. There, she signed a document granting power of attorney to fellow Scientologist Josée Goudreault for a property deal at Madison Avenue, in Clearwater. (Goudreault, like Ambert, works in real estate).3

Public records – and one or two other sources – suggest that Ambert was probably based in Clearwater between 2007 and 2011. And as Kristi Wachter's database shows, she was taking Scientology courses at least up until 2008.4

An unexpected bonus is that someone entered French data into the US system by mistake: Ambert's French address – the one on her French business card – pops up in one database where it should not have.

What might have happened, one source explained, is that a US official took the French word “de” – from Place de l'Église in her French address – to be a reference to the US state of Delaware (DE). In any case, what those accidental entries indicate is that Ambert spent time in France between June 2007 and June 2008; and again in 2013.

From 2010 to late in 2013 another address appears on records: 118 N Forth Harrison Avenue, in Clearwater, just a few minutes' walk down the road from Scientology's Flag base.

This address is the relay office for Freewinds, Scientology's cruise ship where back in 2004 she took the highest level of Scientology's Bridge to Total Freedom: OT VIII. This official Scientology locator page gives the same address.

So this is what we have so far.

Barely two weeks after the suicide of Gloria Lopez, Ambert turns up in Clearwater, Florida and grants a fellow Scientologist power of attorney for a property deal. Public records suggest she lived in Clearwater for a few years. Then from 2010 to 2013 she gives as her forwarding address the relay office for Freewinds.

And the only thing Scientology officials could tell French investigators was that she had gone abroad somewhere.

Full circle

Another clue to her current whereabouts comes from a Facebook page in the name of Danielle Ambert. This particular page has no photo and – until recently at least – only two friends. But both those friends are relatively high-profile Scientologists from the French-speaking community.

One is Robert Galibert, whose profile picture is one of those cute Tribble-type creatures on the illustrated version of Scientology's Tone Scale.5

Galibert is president of “Non à la drogue, Oui à la vie”, a French offshoot of Scientology's Foundation for a Drug-Free World. He confirmed in an interview with the News of Marseille back in April 2012 that the French outfit was funded by Scientology.6

Ambert's other contact is Gisèle de Benoit, a Scientology activist in Switzerland. Some people there thinks she a little too active.

De Benoit heads up Des jeunes pour les droits de l’homme, the Swiss wing of Youth for Human Rights, another Scientology front group. Back in June 2013 Swiss paper La Tribune de Genève ran a story on her efforts to introduce a DVD on human rights into local classrooms there. She got a rap on the fingers from local officials, who rejected the DVD because of its links to Scientology and threatened legal action if she persisted.7

Perhaps the most interesting thing about Ambert's Facebook page is that she gives Oranjestad, Aruba, as her place of residence. Aruba of course, is part of the Dutch Antilles, the chain of islands in the Caribbean where the Freewinds plies its trade.

So a decade after having completed OT VIII there, the evidence online – and from public records in the US – suggests that Ambert has come full circle and is back on board Freewinds. Though this time perhaps she may be a crew member rather than a paying customer.

Maître Rodolphe Bosselut is representing Gloria Lopez's family in the complaint they have lodged – against persons unknown – for alleging abuse of weakness, organized fraud, and failure to help a person in danger.

When we spoke to him last month for our first piece on this case over at Tony Ortega's Underground Bunker, he expressed frustration at the lack of cooperation from Scientology officials during the investigation.

For an organization as centralized as Scientology — as obsessed with documenting everything about its members — it is simply not credible that it can offer no useful information in this affair,” he said at the time.

We presented him with the evidence of where Danielle Ambert had spent the years since Gloria Lopez's death; evidence that suggested she had not cut her ties with Scientology – and that she had even returned to France for periods. He was particularly interested in that part.

The people who would be useful to this investigation, we can't manage to reach them,” he noted. So he had only question: “If Scientology has nothing to reproach itself about in this affair, then why can't we get in touch with these people?”

Phone calls, emails and Facebook messages to Scientology officials – and the Scientologists named above – produced nothing conclusive.

One flustered girl at the Freewinds office in Clearwater swore blind that Mme Ambert was neither on board as a crew member nor a paying passenger. But that rather smacked of panicked improvisation – and certainly nobody more senior has been in touch to confirm or deny Ambert's presence.

Roger Galibert, asked how Ambert might be contacted on Freewinds, suggested a message via the ship's generic email address before ringing off, pleading pressing business. But again, this is hardly definitive confirmation.

De Benoit did not return my phone calls or respond to my messages. But some time in the last day or two she has dropped off Danielle Ambert's Facebook page.

The good news though, is I'm not the only one who has been looking.

Ils accusent!

Here in France, Thursday's edition of the left-leaning daily Libération devotes five pages – including the front page – to an attack on what it says is the French government's loss of nerve on the issue of cults.

They argue that there is a lack of political will at the top to tackle the issue of cults, which has led to inertia in the investigation of such cases.

Libération put a team of reporters on the Gloria Lopez affair and their report argues that the problems the investigation has had moving forward is symptomatic of this wider malaise.

One source close to the case told them that the way the investigation was conducted completely ignored Scientology's well-earned reputation for obstructing any outside inquiries into its affairs.

Whether Danielle Ambert is on Freewinds or back in France, the key question appears to have been resolved. She never really cut her links to Scientology and their leaders' claims that they could not help police find her were at best disingenuous. At best...

The case nevertheless looks set to be closed. That at least is the conclusion of the report from the judge investigating the case, which Libération has had sight of.

Unless of course someone steps forward with new information.

1    Fraud-related convictions were handed down against five defendants by the Marseille court on November 15, 1999.
2   From Scientology's presentation of the Flag Service Organization.
3   You can consult the document online at the Pinellas County website. According to her Facebook page, Goudreault is from Quebec, Canada, though it looks as if she has been doing business in Clearwater since at least 1997. Back in 2007 she ran property business Chic Realty, which had an office at 28 N Fort Harrison Avenue, in Clearwater. That is just around the corner from Flag, where Gloria Lopez had been due to go once she started at the Sea Org.
4   Ambert's name also comes up in various county court property-related documents until at least the end of 2014 – though that does not necessarily mean she stayed in Clearwater that whole time.
5   I could be wrong, but I think it's 8.0: “exhilaration”.
Here's Scientology's explanation of the Tone Scale, which was devised by founder L. Ron Hubbard. Former members have criticised it as another tool for controlling people. Jon Atack wrote: “Through Tone Scale drilling, people learn to pretend emotions. The downside is that they can lose spontaneity by doing so. They can lose the capacity for natural emotions, or become confused about what their real emotions are.” ( From “Scientology is an Implant”, first posted to alt.religion.scientology
6   La Scientologie, accro aux Drogues? (“Is Scientology addicted to Drugs?”): the News of Marseille, April 10, 2012.
7   La scientologie tente de s’inviter dans les classes vaudoises (“Scientology tries to invite itself into Vaud's classrooms”). June 28, 2013: by Lise Bourgeois.


  1. Great report, Mr J. Depressing though, that the French judge is considering closing the case, considering France's previous stands against Co$.

  2. Important note: Scientology claims that OTVIIIs have open time tracks, which means they can remember everything they perceived - even a billion years back. Now, can any OTVIII claim to not remember something when questioned by the police?
    Publicity wise it is a lose lose game. I smell serious fraud.

  3. Una puta mierda !!! Los cienciólogos son unos psicóticos !! Fuera con ellos...que selarguen a su planeta Xenu con su fundador y nos dejen a todos en paz de una vez !!

  4. Bueno no, pero si, pero no. Hola Tumismo: finalmente unos de mis mejores amigos son los cienciólogos (bueno, los x-cienciólogos). Yo creo que la mayoría son capables de escapar la trampa y que la mayoria son mas víctimas que explotadores. Hay nada mas un núcleo duro que son el verdadero problema -- pero sí, que puede ser muy frustrante!

  5. Hmm: that would be fun to try in a courtroom.

  6. That's what's so disturbing about the Libération report, which is effectively accusing both the government and the legal system of having dropped its guard on this issue. But this case isn't dead just yet.

  7. Good for Liberation to do their bit to keep the French authorities honest. It does beggar belief that a "we know nothing" routine was accepted at face value, but obviously the criminal organisation known as the "church" of $cientology does use those "TR-L" routines to hoodwink the easily confused...
    If the previous government had not shut down the cult observation group in the domestic intelligence agency things might have gone different...