Top Scientologists tried to restrict airspace around one mission: to stop a college prankster from embarrassing Tom Cruise with an airplane banner, leaked documents obtained by DailyMail.com reveal.
Documents passed on by a former top Scientology executive show how hard the ‘religion’ worked to pull off a prank at the 2006 MI III Los Angeles premiere – including using contacts in the LAPD.
The man behind the prank, Stephen ‘Josh’ Schofield, was a 21-year-old student at the University of Central Florida at the time.
Using about $3,300 donated from friends on an online forum, he arranged for two planes to fly a banner at a fan screening of the Paramount movie at Grauman’s Chinese Theater on May 4, 2006, poking fun at Scientology’s mythological ‘galactic overlord’ Genu.
Leaked documents obtained by DailyMail.com reveal plans to embarrass Tom Cruise and mock the Church of Scientology at the 2006 premiere of Mission: Impossible III in Los Angeles with an airplane banner joke.
Stephen ‘Josh’ Schofield, 21, was behind the plane banner prank which he created after receiving a $3,300 donation from friends on an online forum.
Like many Hollywood movie premieres, the red carpet event for the hit action movie took place at Grauman’s Chinese Theater on Hollywood Boulevard.
‘We probably got the idea after the South Park episode [mocking Scientology] came out, to try to prank Tom Cruise into being a Scientologist,’ Schofield told DailyMail.com.
‘A plane was going to carry a banner that read ‘Hail Jenu’. It was just after Cruise had a baby, and another said: ‘The baby is Jen’s.’ Suri, Cruise’s daughter with Katie Holmes, was born on April 18, less than three weeks before the premiere.
But weeks before the planned prank, top Scientologists were tipped off by someone viewing forum posts, Schofield was a member of offtopic.com.
On April 11, the Church’s ‘Watchdog Committee’ from their ‘Office of Special Affairs’ warned their group of Schofield’s plans to ‘put up derogatory banners’, describing them as ‘anti-Scientology and anti-Tom Cruise’. The committee was alerted by the church’s attorney, Bart Fields.
The third film in the Mission: Impossible franchise was released in May 2006
The letter instructed ‘Linda’ and the Church’s ‘Director/Commanding Officer of the Office of Special Affairs, International Division’ to ‘find out everything you can about them and let me know at once’.
It included Scofield’s full name, address, cell number and email, as well as the name and address of a moderator at offtopic.com.
A second document, obtained by DailyMail.com on April 27, 2006, is a report by senior Scientologist Kiersten Catano that outlines their extraordinary efforts to thwart the pranksters and ‘make sure this flyover is killed’.
Scientology chief spokeswoman Karin Pow told DailyMail.com that she had no knowledge of the incident and could not find any documents.
First they tracked the banner company, Star Ads, and pilot Mario Lopez to the Torrance airport, Caetano wrote.
Then security chief Robert Boyland met with former LAPD officer Scott Laches, vice president of Paramount Security Services, for the movie’s premiere, and both contacted the ‘FAA’. [Federal Aviation Administration] on restricting airspace’, his report said.
The FAA refuses to close the airspace without a ‘credible threat’, so the Scientologists instead prepare a ‘pack’ of information to try to convince the FAA that the pranksters are a safety concern and that Lopez’s plane should be grounded.
Documents obtained by DailyMail.com include a copy of the contract between Schofield and Arnold Aerial Advertising for two planes to fly an aerial banner: ‘THE BABY BELONGS TO XENU’ – a reference to Cruise’s newborn daughter at the time – and ‘HAIL XENU’.
A letter dated April 11, 2006 shows that the church’s ‘watchdog committee’ wrote a letter to the group that church lawyer Bart Fields warned them about the prank.
Intent on blocking the stunt, church executives even tracked Banner Company, Star Advertising and pilot Mario Lopez to the Torrance airport.
‘The FAA terminal and the police will be briefed about internet postings from organizers about arranging for people in the crowd of fans to make some kind of scene to try to get Tom Cruise to look at the banner. ,’ Caetano wrote.
‘We found some user IDs on the offtopic message board who donated funds for the plane fare, such as SerialKiller, AssassinMonkey, Organdor, Bomberboy, Bilthbutcher, Gunslinger, DivineVengeance, and KillerRobotgeous.
‘These message boards also contain images such as images of guns, bullets and a child holding a gun to the face which shows that it should be taken seriously.’
There was no evidence that the pranksters planned to physically harm anyone.
The church’s security wing even consulted retired FBI agent Scott Nelson on what would be needed to ground the plane.
The report stated that the church’s chief spokesman at the time, Tommy Davis, was planning to ‘brief’ LAPD officer Ron Sanchez, who headed the Hollywood Police Activity League and was friendly with several high-ranking Scientologists, ‘to determine exactly what the police could do. . Please turn it off’.
‘Already Star Advertising’s beneficial owner, Mario Lopez, a security professional will be contacted and briefed on the situation and directed to have no part of it,’ Caetano added.
‘If necessary it will be done on Tuesday so that Schofield and Fazal don’t have enough time to reorganize.’
Caetano reportedly signed the initials ‘MLV’ meaning ‘much love’, a common greeting for Scientologists.
Finally, the weather stopped playing tricks.
Lopez and Schofield told dailymail.com that the flight was canceled due to fog in the evening and the college student was refunded.
In a report dated April 27, 2006, senior Scientologist Kiersten Caetano described the extraordinary efforts to ‘make sure this flyover was killed’.
An April 19, 2006 contract with Lopez’s affiliate, Arnold Aerial Advertising Inc., shared by Schofield with DailyMail.com, says the two planes’ flights were scheduled between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m.
The Torrance weather report for May 4, 2006 showed a cloudy day with temperatures in the mid-60s Fahrenheit, until 5:50 pm when conditions became ‘fair’ at 6:57 pm.
‘Sea level came up just before sunset and we couldn’t fly. It was stopped by low clouds and fog,’ Lopez said.
The pilot, now retired, said he received an odd number of calls that week from people asking if he was available on May 4 — which he now suspects is Scientology operatives trying to uncover the pranksters’ plans.
‘It was really fun because normally we don’t fly during the week. This incident happened on Thursday night.
‘Thursday night I was getting calls asking if I was busy. I found it strange, as if someone was looking for something,’ he said.
Schofield said he was shocked to discover his name was detailed in a Scientology report.
‘It must be out there. They really tried to control their people, religion and narrative,’ he said.
‘You see people talking about their experiences and it’s always them ‘running away’ from it. I see it as a religion.’
Schofield added that he was not surprised that the agency appeared to have a direct line to the LAPD about the incident.
‘The amount of money the organization has, they can hire whoever they want, whether it’s private investigators or rich people who can get access to them. It doesn’t really surprise me,’ he said.
The screening event eventually broke up without a hitch due to bad weather that prevented the aircraft from flying
Tom Cruise and then-wife Katie Holmes – who arrived at the screening in a Bugatti
Cruise is Hollywood’s most prominent Scientologist, though has been publicly criticized by former members of the church
Scientology’s ties to the LAPD are currently under investigation after allegations that its officers leaked confidential information to the church and were involved in the disappearance of Shelley, the wife of Scientology leader David Miscavige.
Last year ex-Scientologist-turned-critic Leah Remini accused former LAPD officer Corey Palka of leaking information about sexual misconduct allegations against former CBS CEO Les Moonves at the network.
Palka even allowed the LAPD Hollywood division to set up an ‘informational kiosk’ with a TV and flyers for the church.
Remini also filed a missing person’s report for Shelly Miscavige, wife of Scientology leader David Miscavige, in 2013, six years after she was last seen.
In June, journalist Yasher Ali reported that the LAPD closed the Miscavige case after taking fingerprints from a woman claiming to be Shelly at a cafe on August 8, 2013—despite the fingerprints being too faint for a positive match, and surveillance from the coffee shop. The footage is scrambled
“Scientology hires off-duty LAPD cops as security and donates to LAPD charities,” Remini wrote on Twitter in November.
‘Instructing its members not to assist in the investigation of any crime involving Scientologists and to make reporting Scientologists to Scientology law enforcement a high crime within Scientology.’
Remini accused the detective in charge of the missing persons case, Lt. Andre Dawson, of having a ‘cozy relationship with Scientology’, a photo shows him speaking at an event at the Celebrity Center in Los Angeles on December 10, 2014. Human trafficking.
Scientology spokeswoman Pau said the church has no policy on reporting criminal activity to law enforcement. ‘Quite the opposite, church policy clearly demands that Scientologists obey all laws of the land,’ he said.