California Spiritual Group Faces Lawsuit Over Alleged Sexual Assault and Trafficking

A lawsuit has been filed against the Fellowship of Friends, a California-based spiritual organization, and its leader Robert Earl Burton. The suit, filed by six former members, alleges sexual assault and human trafficking by Burton. The Fellowship of Friends, known for its natural wine production, is facing accusations from the plaintiffs who claim they were sexually exploited and trafficked to the U.S.

The lawsuit states that Burton, 84, used his position to engage in sexual conduct with numerous young men. The Fellowship of Friends, headquartered on a 1,200-acre compound in Oregon House, California, features elaborate gardens, statues, and a vineyard known as Renaissance. This winery has received accolades, including a mention in the New York Times by critic Eric Asimov.

The group reportedly has significant influence in the Big Tech industry, with many members residing in the Bay Area and employed in the sector. Last year, a former Google employee filed a lawsuit alleging wrongful termination related to complaints about the Fellowship’s influence within a business unit. The case was settled outside of court.

According to the lawsuit, the Fellowship of Friends has approximately 1,500 international members, with 500 to 600 living near its headquarters. Members are required to contribute at least 10 percent of their income and are recruited globally. Selected international members are brought to the U.S. to live with Burton in his mansion, filled with fine art and antiques.

The plaintiffs allege that fellowship officers and directors were aware of and facilitated Burton’s abuse. The lawsuit claims that the group arranged immigration documents, including tourist and religious visas, for young men to come to the U.S., where they were then victimized.

The investigative podcast Revelations first highlighted these allegations, including interviews with six men who claimed they were forced into sexual relations with Burton. Two men from Eastern Europe reported that the Fellowship assisted them in obtaining visas to move to the U.S., where they participated in sex rituals organized by Burton.

The lawsuit describes these “Lovefests,” where Burton allegedly attempted to have sexual relations with numerous men in a single day. One plaintiff claims to have been sexually assaulted by Burton hundreds of times over an eight-year period. The lawsuit also alleges that Burton coerced members into sexual acts under the guise of spiritual evolution.

The Fellowship of Friends, founded in 1970 by Burton, is based on the teachings of George Gurdjieff. Burton, who claims to receive messages from historical figures, has predicted global catastrophes and teaches that his compound will be a sanctuary in such events.

Burton has been sued previously by former members for similar allegations, with cases settled out of court. The current lawsuit claims Burton’s actions were known and supported by the Fellowship.

Greg Holman, the Fellowship’s president, did not respond to requests for comment on the lawsuit. The FBI declined to comment on reports filed against the Fellowship. A previous investigation by Immigration and Customs Enforcement into the Fellowship did not substantiate sexual exploitation allegations.

The lawsuit seeks to address the claims of sexual assault and human trafficking within the Fellowship of Friends, highlighting a complex issue involving a spiritual group and its leader.

Author: CrimeDoor

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