November 11, 2006
Gentle Wind Project becalmed
The Gentle Wind Project, a cult that for more than two decades defrauded its members of millions of dollars, is being forced to empty one or two of its own pockets:
PORTLAND, Maine—A Kittery-based group that claimed to promote spiritual healing and sold objects it characterized as “healing instruments” has agreed to drop a defamation lawsuit against a Blue Hill couple who compared it to a “mind control cult.”
The agreement calls for The Gentle Wind Project to drop its claims against Jim Bergin and Judy Garvey and reimburse them for donations they made to the organization over the 17-year period in which they were members.
The couple had published online critiques of Gentle Wind, saying it came to dominate all aspects of their lives. The articles led to more than three years of litigation as John “Tubby” Miller, who ran Gentle Wind, claimed that the bad publicity damaged its ability to raise money.
While the case was pending, the Maine Attorney General’s Office sued Gentle Wind for false claims and fraud. In a settlement reached last summer, the organization agreed to pay fines and to stop making claims about healing instruments resembling cards and hockey pucks that purportedly could cure physical and emotional damage caused by illnesses ranging from alcoholism to paralysis.
The Miller family sued Bergin, Garvey and operators of Internet sites that published their work. After the case was thrown out of federal court last year, the Millers filed the lawsuit in state court in York County.
Because the settlement is being paid out of the Gentle Wind Project estate—which is being administered by the Maine attorney general’s court-appointed receiver—Bergin and Garvey have already received the money owed them. But as they pointed out via email, while the settlement will defray the tens of thousands of dollars they have spent in defense costs, it doesn’t come close to compensating them for the years they lost defending themselves against the cult’s frivolous lawsuit.
As the statement issued by Bergin and Garvey notes, Gentle Wind has now lost every one of the lawsuits it brought against its critics. Which means the rich seam mined by Verrill Dana, its Maine lawyers, is likely exhausted.
The same can’t be said for Gentle Wind’s resources. In recent years, the cult’s declared income has topped $1 million annually—most of it offset by “research expenses” that included a $67,000 sail boat. Gentle Wind’s actual “research” came a lot cheaper, at least in dollar terms. It allegedly included influencing female cult members to take part in sex rituals that apparently helped John Miller create his fake “healing instruments.”
The Millers clearly aren’t giving up on such a rewarding vocation. Within weeks of being shut down by Maine authorities, Gentle Wind was back in business in fraud-friendly Nevada. Its new Web site softly sets out its mission to “make the world a better, easier place,” an endeavor it promises is being carried out by an “all new, all volunteer organization” that doesn’t accept “donations or payment in any form.” It will be fascinating to watch how this latest scam plays out—for scam it undoubtedly is.
For more than you could ever want to know about these crooks, click here.
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