Avraham Cohen – then Rama Behera – in 1976, when a reporter and also photographer indigenous the Minneapolis Tribune went to Shawano because that interviews. Credit: Star Tribune / Minneapolis-St. Paul 2011
Click to enlarge.

You are watching: Samanta roy institute of science and technology

Click to enlarge.

Shawano - 5 years ago, Avraham Cohen had come to be a large, if mainly unseen, presence in this little city at the sheet of the north Woods.

He already had sculpted out a to mark career end the previous three decades. A nuclear engineering student-turned spiritual leader, he had attracted a group of followers who, previous members say, faithful obeyed him in locations of their resides as big as who they would certainly marry and also as small as which brands of groceries to buy.

Formerly well-known as R.C. Samanta Roy, before that as Rama Behera, and simply dubbed "Brother" by his followers, he additionally was an educational benefactor, the founder of a school near the village in India where he"d to be raised.

By 2006 that had end up being arguably the greatest name in Shawano, thanks to a flurry of activity on an entirely new front - business.

Subsidiaries the the namesake Dr. R.C. Samanta Roy institute of scientific research and technology Inc., of i beg your pardon he was president, had actually amassed range of ventures: A gift shop, a fudge-making operation, 2 hotels, three gas station/convenience stores, a multimillion-dollar racetrack, apartment buildings and around 20 pieces of commercial property.

Most that it had actually been built up over a couple of years, prompting nervous questions in Shawano about a team that kept greatly to itself and also had lengthy been a subject of neighborhood rumor and also suspicion. Part wondered if Cohen would take over the whole town.

Then, practically as quickly, the problems started mounting - foreclosure, receivership, bankruptcy. Creditors got three Minnesota gas stations owned by an institute subsidiary and two apartment buildings in Shawano. The racetrack, a professional-caliber facility because that high-powered go-karts and also motorcycles, was compelled into receivership. Revenue at the many hotels plunged. If there had actually been a cool design, it seemed to be comes unglued.

But the institute maintained its Shawano gas stations after ~ a plan sheriff"s sale was canceled. And also while it lost the Minnesota stations, one entity operation by the institute"s CEO recently contracted come buy among them.

Over virtually four decades of self-made ministry, Avraham Cohen has actually fashioned himself into a strong leader, maintained the fierce loyalty of a main point of followers and withstood critics" accusations of mental domination and physical abuse. He"s been nothing if no resilient.


Cohen hasn"t talked to reporters in numerous years, no that castle haven"t tried. From abductions that his pendant by would-be "deprogrammers" in the 1970s and early "80s to the advertisement expansion and bitter battles through local federal government in the critical decade, there"s to be plenty to compose about.

But when Cohen hasn"t talked to the media, a flurry of bankruptcy and civil court cases in recent years gives a glimpse into the company affairs the the organization that bear his name. And also former followers progressively are talk publicly around what they explain as a closed culture of believers overwhelmingly overcame by Cohen and his evolving spiritual vision.

Former members of his team say they"ve placed in plenty of hours of complimentary labor at his houses in Shawano and suburban Baltimore, driven hundreds of miles simply to choose up his favorite produce, purchase the car he command them to buy and also purchased property at his instruction.

Over the year the "brethren," together they call themselves, have actually helped expand Cohen"s ranch-style home north the town right into a headquarters complicated of an ext than 11,000 square feet - many of that basement level - masking by thick pines and vast tarpaulins.

Six that the unpaid director of the Samanta Roy Institute, an education nonprofit that operates the college in India, have personally guaranteed more than $4 million the the debt of academy subsidiaries since 2005. Cohen"s followers have actually helped establish and run those for-profit businesses, in some instances staffing them as volunteers, something that sits ok with competitors who need to pay their help.

The faithful - they as soon as may have actually numbered a couple of hundred - have actually maintained your allegiance throughthechanging theology of a group that as soon as wascalledThe disciples of the lord Jesus, but shifted toward what former members describe as an idiosyncratic version of Judaism.

They"ve stood firm amidallegations of physical abuse, mental domination and deliberate alienation of children from parental - allegations they, and also some former members, have flatly denied.

They"ve weathered intermittent occurrences of hostility the over the decades have ranged from vandalism and also petty harassment up to, in one case, shots being fired into Cohen"s home.

And in recent years, they"ve combated a running battle with Shawano officials, particularly Mayor Lorna Marquardt, who they view as the heart of a vast, persecuting conspiracy that extends to banks, utilities, the media and judges native Minnesota come Delaware.


Cohen could not have resolved in the Midwest, and Shawano, if not for Julaine Smith.

The now 71-year-old minister, that did not respond to number of requests because that interviews, comes from Kishoreprasad, a town in eastern India too tiny to show up on even a in-depth map that the country. He saw college in India, then involved the joined States, enrolling at Columbia college in new York City in 1964 to research nuclear engineering. His name was Rama Chandra Behera then. He adjusted it come Rama Chandra Samanta Roy in 1990, a couple of years before the starting of the institute, and readjusted it to Avraham Cohen in 2007.

He attended Columbia for one year, receiving no degree. However there, he later told followers, a transcendent vision overthrew his Hindu beliefs and set him on a brand-new path. Together Nancy Ritland, a monitor of Cohen from 1974 come 2007, tells it: "He claims the lord Jesus appeared to that in the kind of a yellowish gold light . . . and claimed to him, "Rama, if you want to follow God, monitor me." "

He heeded the call.

But first he had actually to leaving the United states to renew his college student visa, and also opted to perform it in Jamaica, said Lois Loomis - Smith"s sister. Smith remained in Jamaica editing and enhancing a spiritual magazine. She and also Cohen married in October 1966 in a Lutheran church in St. Charles, Minn., the bride"s hometown. Loomis was matron the honor.

The couple first lived v Julaine"s parents, then visited India, Loomis said. Yet by the at an early stage 1970s, Cohen was earlier in the Midwest, preaching in evangelical and nondenominational churches.

It to be a an excellent time to deliver a new message.

The society upheaval of the "60s had set the stage for a blossoming of alternatives to traditional religion - from generic Jesus Freaks come the youngsters of God, the divine Light Mission and various charismatic expression of mainstream faiths.

"A lot of of human being in the period, young people, rotate to religious beliefs hoping that God would bring about the social and political transforms that they had actually failed to achieve," said Stephen Kent, a sociology professor at the university of Alberta who studies new and alternative religions.

Amid the social ferment, Cohen brought a sort of East-West synthesis and what appeared to be unexplained insight and power.

"All this emotion, every this heart, these remarkable things," Ritland said, relenten his appeal. "You just never heard the it: This Hindu who turned come the Lord. Wow. We were simply swept turn off our feet."

And there to be the miracles.

Ritland stated that due to the fact that childhood she had withstood a pains foot trouble that sometimes brought her come tears. Yet as she sat with a little group listening to Cohen in a Rochester, Minn., life room in the early on 1970s, she said, the preacher declared:

""I have a vision the a black crow sitting on someone"s appropriate foot. That has difficulties with their feet?"

"I increased my hand. . . . He said, "Put your own hand ~ above your own foot." and also he spoke in tongues yes, really loud. And my foot was perfect. For sure perfect."


Besides Minnesota, Cohen preached in places such as Iron Mountain, Mich., and Green Bay. In so late 1973, the bought a house outside Shawano, a city of numerous thousand on the wolf River. For the brethren, it came to be a destination for weekly pilgrimages.

Some followers were indigenous northeastern Wisconsin or upper Michigan, however many lived and also worked in southern Minnesota, about five hrs away. Previous member Steve Ritland - he and also Nancy married after both had left the group - defined the weekly routine like this:

Finish work-related Friday afternoon. Acquire the wife and kids right into the auto for the 250-mile expedition to Shawano. Phone call Cohen because that instructions.

"We"d need to call: "Brother, we"re coming. Which method should us come?" " Steve Ritland said. "That was the protocol."

Cohen then would direct their route.

According to the account of former members, he i ordered it marriages; directed career paths; barred usage of peanut butter and Italian food; instructed them on the correct means to peel a banana; laid under rules such together no-hands-in-pants-pockets; and dictated the women"s appearance: long, dark skirts; complete blouses buttoned to the neck; long hair bound in a bun.

He told human being what species of cars come buy - Cadillac Fleetwood Broughams d" Elegance for numerous of the males in the early on 1980s, follow to previous follower approve Kemp.

"Rama wanted all the brethren to have flashy cars the everybody can see and leave the impression that we were very, really wealthy," he said.

At a Shawano county court hear in 2002, Lori Ballinger, who described herself as part the group from 1975 to 1995, testified that she and also family members "completely" gave up an individual autonomy come Cohen.

"He directed points that us did every day," Ballinger testified. "Even, i lived 5 hours away from Shawano, but still ns would speak to him in the morning before I saw school. I would speak to him prior to I went grocery shopping. Ns talked to him nearly every day to tell the what i was doing, to ask him to pray for me, to ask that what I must be doing."

Such habits may mystify outsiders, however Baylor university professor J. Gordon Melton, founder that the Institute for the research of American Religion, stated some people find it attractive to have decisions produced them.

"While you cede freedom, you gain every one of the confidence and also you remove responsibility," Melton said. "Your defense level goes means up."

Janja Lalich, a California State University, Chico, sociology professor, claimed adherents that alternative religious groups frequently are search something most world need - a structure to recognize life. Yet followers can come to be entrenched, organized by peer pressure and also cut off from exterior sources that information, and end up detainees of what Lalich calls "a bounded reality." The group has "the answers come everything" and also establishes its very own standards the behavior, she said.

When you"re in the group, Lalich said, "it"s perfect normal and also it doesn"t seem odd."


Arriving in Shawano about midnight, Steve Ritland would certainly sleep with many of the various other brethren top top the floor in Cohen"s basement. Then it to be up in ~ 3:30 a.m. Because that a forced shower, a couple more hrs of sleep, and up again to begin worship about 6:30.

Former members to speak the sessions attractive as numerous as 150 come 200 people and also could last until late afternoon. Steve Ritland said he frequently dehydrated himself beforehand because group members sometimes weren"t permitted to use a toilet for long periods.

Brethren stayed on their knees when Cohen preached. That, too, could go for some time.

"He deserve to talk literally for hours, eight hours straight, there is no notes," said Bill Stecker, who was teaching industrial arts at a Mankato, Minn., high school when he and his wife, Cathy, ended up being followers in around 1975.

Besides preaching, Cohen offered the meetings come regularly and also publicly rebuke and also humiliate individuals in the group, former members say. Part say they gained tagged v unappealing nicknames: Leech, The Goat, Miserable Nancy. They likewise say Cohen discouraged members from establishing relationships amongst themselves, and also created an environment in which the brethren feeling obliged to inform on one another"s misdeeds.

"That was an extremely prevalent," stated Steve Ritland, a member from 1974 come 2001. " . . . If you might expose somebody else"s sin, you got a most points with Rama."

After the Saturday meeting come evening showers, then another worship meeting Saturday night. And also another top top Sunday. And on Sunday night.

Ritland generally would begin driving back to Rochester, Minn., and his Monday morning job as an technician at IBM between 10 p.m. And midnight.

"Twice I practically ran head-on into an 18-wheeler because I to be so sleep-deprived," he said.


Cohen still offered interviews in the mid-1970s. He was preaching Jesus then.

"Jesus Christ is coming back," The Milwaukee journal quoted him as saying in 1975. "The timing of His coming is very soon."

Eight month later, the Minneapolis Tribune described him as saying Jesus had given him the capability to read people"s minds, predict your futures, heal their diseases and discern what to be sinful.

But the critical time Cohen speak to reporters might have been in 1982, as soon as the Milwaukee Sentinel reported that he defined himself as a hellfire-and-brimstone type of preacher that led a group of "pure Christians."

That interview followed the abduction of Cohen follower william Eilers by "deprogrammers" who organized him in a boarded-up room in ~ a facility owned by a Catholic religious order for 5½ days, the first two of which he was handcuffed come a bed. Eilers, then 24, escaped, rejoined Cohen"s group and later effectively sued 5 of his captors.

Five year later, Eilers left the team on his own. That didn"t respond come attempts to contact him, yet in 2002 he testified in ~ the same Shawano ar court hearing as Lori Ballinger, this time sharply criticizing what the once had embraced.

"I remained in the group for seven years," Eilers testified. "I entirely lost the "80s. I never ever heard a radio. I never saw a television. I never ever read a newspaper uneven I was instructed to. I functioned on a farm. I never went come town. I never saw a woman, never acquired a hug, never talked to human being unless i was instructed to."

"The outside world is the enemy," Eilers testified. "Everybody who isn"t part of the group is the enemy, and also that"s the bottom line."


Much that the group"s growth was organic: The brethren had actually lots that children. Ritland and his very first wife had eight. Kemp and also his wife had actually seven. The Steckers had actually nine. Others had even more. Some of those children, previous members allege, go on to endure harsh treatment.

The accusations are amongst the records in 2 court files.

The first involved a criminal situation in Shawano versus Gaeland Priebe, that was judge of consistently sexually assaulting his daughter.

Priebe to be a team member once the strikes occurred and tried, unsuccessfully, to stop prison by saying he lost manage over his actions because of Cohen"s domination. Prior to his sentencing in 2002, several previous members, consisting of Eilers and also Ballinger, testified or created letters top top his behalf.

The previous followers alleged a litany the abuse within the group: children kicked, hit with a stick or board, jolted through a cattle prod, required to stay in barrels for hrs without bathroom privileges, made come eat their very own vomit.

In various litigation around around the exact same time, number of other human being - team members and also other previous members - swore in affidavits that no such abuses occurred.

No prosecution was ever begun based upon the previous members" allegations.

Robert Schmidt, climate Shawano county sheriff, expressed hesitation to a eco-friendly Bay television station roughly the time the abuse cases surfaced. Some children in the team attended windy schools, but Schmidt stated there had been no reports from teachers and social workers suggesting abuse.

Schmidt couldn"t be reached for one interview for this story. But Gary Bruno, then-Shawano County district attorney, claimed the accusers" credibility never came to be an issue since the state of limitations had actually expired on the alleged incidents.

"There was absolutely nothing that can be done," the said.

In 2008, the abuse question arised again in a Minneapolis divorce case.

Shushanie Aschemann had actually left Cohen"s group. Her husband, Dan, remained. He sought joint custody of your children, 3 and 2, and wanted to take it them to team meetings in Shawano. Shushanie didn"t want them walking there.

She won. Ar Judge Bruce Peterson forgive her single legal and physical custody, and also barred Dan from entailing the youngsters in the team unless Shushanie agreed come it or a court readjusted the ruling.

In his order, Peterson stated there had been far-ranging and credible reports that abuse arising at the group"s weekend meetings.

Two previous members who appeared in court on Shushanie"s instead of (neither figured in the earlier Shawano case) "credibly testified to and also corroborated" the allegations "of physics abuse and parental alienation in ~ the group," Peterson wrote.

He said one of the witnesses, Huldah Gronvall, "described the team as a caste system with Mr. Cohen together its head. She testified that Mr. Cohen alienates children from your parents in an effort to exercise complete control over members the the group and to develop unquestioning allegiance come him."

The various other witness, Peterson said, had "testified that youngsters of all ages were required to perform comprehensive physical job at the link without adequate access to food and also water."

That witness was Leah Gaworek, currently an lawyer in environment-friendly Bay. Among other things, she testified she as soon as saw Cohen become extremely angry due to the fact that a boy and also a girl, after ~ kneeling in the embraced position because that at least 4 hours in a room crammed with other children, had actually moved their legs and touched your feet to a flier comprise Cohen"s teachings.

According come Gaworek"s testimony, Cohen sat the young on a concrete floor and also ordered all the other children to gather round and spit ~ above him. Then, she testified, they walk the same thing to the second child.

The second child was Gronvall, who later on testified that Gaworek"s account was accurate. In one interview, Gronvall, now an technician on the eastern Coast, estimated more than 40 kids spit in ~ her.

Dan Aschemann testified that the group did not communicate in any type of abuse that children. Previous member Miriam Fayas sustained him, testifying the she had actually never it was observed abuse, never ever saw anyone struck v an object, and that she had actually no involves for the safety of her son, who traveled through her ex-husband come Shawano every weekend for group meetings.

"Actually i feel an extremely comforted and also assured every time he pipeline to walk on the weekends," Fayas testified.

She testified the the Shawano teachings had been "the best thing, i firmly believe, that ever before happened to me." world were teach "to acquire education come the fullest," Fayas said. Introduce to her son, she testified the she had actually been "raised with very great morals, with an excellent teachings, and also I want him to have the same thing that ns was elevated with."


To sarah Slaby, the assertions some previous brethren level in ~ Cohen - overriding control, windy humiliations, even physical abuse - don"t ring true.

"I had complimentary will on where I visited school, wherein I gained a job," claimed Slaby, that was raised in the group and still goes to the weekend meetings occasionally. "I didn"t answer to anybody."

Despite the control some people feel Cohen worked out over them, there space varying levels of involvement and allegiance amongst followers. And also while there has been a team in the sense of world gathered together for a common purpose, there is no officially membership.

"All my experience has been positive," claimed Slaby, a vet in west Wisconsin. "In truth I would need to say that due to the fact that of the strong network in mine family, and Dr. Cohen, I have actually a lot of great in mine life."

Those influences encompass solid moral grounding and appreciation for the value of hard work and education, she said.

"I have actually a brothers who"s a lawyer, a brother who"s a doctor, 2 brothers who own large businesses up in the (Twin) Cities," Slaby said. "And i don"t think that would be feasible without ours upbringing and influence indigenous Dr. Cohen."

Many rather forged comparable careers, with an unexplained number coming to be attorneys.

Slaby stated a professor told she she wasn"t smart sufficient to be a veterinarian. But, she said, "I had all the encouragement from my parents and Dr. Cohen that (if) you work-related hard sufficient you can attain whatever you want."

In judgment on the Aschemann divorce, judge Peterson noted that every one of the witnesses elevated in Cohen"s group, whether still in or not, to be "sincere, articulate, intelligent and generally highly achieved individuals." He said that might not it is in coincidence, and that at some suggest the Aschemann youngsters "may an extremely well have some advantage from the to teach or the neighborhood support that the group."

Weighing the reality of those that have broken away indigenous an alternative religious group against those who remain loyal is difficult, said John R. Hall, a sociology professor in ~ the college of California, Davis.

Both sides have actually agendas, he said. The agenda of the adherents is obvious: protect the group. Yet Hall said previous members-turned-critics may say they to be brainwashed as a way of accounting for years of authorized in other they now regret, and may embellish what part sociologists speak to "atrocity tales."

The allegations in public papers of harsh physical treatment in Cohen"s group come from 10 people. All but one specifically stated they observed the punishment or to be the recipient. Every one of the incidents appear to indicate alleged events from the 1980s and "90s.

Against the stand various other court affidavits and also testimony the Fayas and at the very least eight various other people, four of whom stated they to be no longer group members. A few of the nine stated they never ever witnessed any abuse. Many went further, speak no abuse developed whatsoever.

Melton said accounts of disaffected former members of spiritual groups have to be bring away seriously. If many human being say the very same thing, specifically if they to speak they were witnesses, "that i do not care a secondary verification," the said.

"In various other words, if you"ve got one person coming out, that"s one thing. If you"re obtained 10 people . . . that raises the veracity that the charge."

And if an equal number refuse the accounts?

"I"ve found that over the years that as soon as you"ve acquired two kinds of absolute things," Melton said, "it"s other in the center that yes, really occurred."


They dubbed it "having a good heart because that Brother." According to former members, the meant reflecting allegiance by act special points for Cohen, many of i beg your pardon they currently view together ridiculous.

Cathy Stecker, because that example, said she ironed document money she presented together donations.

Kemp said that, in ~ Cohen"s behest, he sometimes drove indigenous Rochester, Minn., to Shawano by method of downtown Chicago - 330 miles out of his way. The reason: come buy fruits and vegetables for Cohen at a particular produce industry he liked.

Stecker tells of an even longer mission: She said she and a young guy in the team drove straight through indigenous Shawano to Los Angeles come Philadelphia and earlier to Shawano - almost 6,000 mile in 4 days.

They stopped only for gasoline, she said. One slept; the other drove. They ate convenience-store food purchased once they gassed up. And also they lugged out their assignment native Cohen, Stecker said, which to be to choose up an envelope at a Los Angeles furniture market and some brochures in Philadelphia.

"Cross the nation both directions because that something that can have been taken on for $13 FedEx," bill Stecker said.

But at the time Cathy was happy to carry out it, in her car and also at she expense. Together she witnessed it, Cohen was rewarding her by entrusting her through the job.

"I really felt privileged," she said, " . . . even despite it to be the craziest point ever."

It wasn"t, however, the most substantive means she proved a great heart.

During the 1990s, she and Bill continued to be in the group however lived in phibìc Carolina, whereby Bill own a business. However in 1999, they said, amid challenges with among their sons, Cohen told Cathy she should move to Shawano. Bill remained to tend his business, but Cathy, without hesitation, traction their three minor children out of school, packed your things and also gave an alert at her task as a medical technologist.

"In two weeks us were up there," she said.


They arrived no long prior to the Samanta Roy academy bought a fudge and also gift shop - the first of what would be virtually a dozen company purchases. Volunteers have provided the labor at some, if not all, the the businesses, bankruptcy records indicate.

Last May, the U.S. Trustee in Delaware bankruptcy court stated neither the institute nor any kind of of that at-least-12 for-profit subsidiaries had any type of paid employees. "Rather, every officers and also other persons that do work for the providers are volunteers," U.S. Trustee Roberta DeAngelis said in a motion.

Institute representatives also have talked on the staffing of company businesses. For example, at a September 2009 listening in a bankruptcy instance involving the institute, 5 real-estate stop subsidiaries and also the subsidiary operation the Shawano gas stations, institute attorney Steven Usdin said the judge: "As your honor is fine aware, there room no employees of any kind of of this entities."

In an interview, Scott Paape, who controlled the Shawano kart racing track from 2004 with 2008, claimed everyone who functioned there belonged to the group, and worked hard. Young children, that said, were amongst a crew that when put down 10 come 15 acres of sod at the site.

"They laid that in four days nonstop," that said, "and these kids ranged native 6 years old to 21, 22. . . . Moving stones, moving rocks. The was fairly amazing."

Cohen saw the monitor often and also lavished money ~ above it, stated Paape, a rare outsider affiliated in Samanta Roy institute business.

"He would normally come out at night and also would have his posse roughly him. . . . He would want to understand what i needed. Anything i asked for i got."

"I"ve obtained to say one thing," said Paape, who now runs a track in new Jersey. "When they developed it, they built it right. That track is amazing."

And it attracted top professional karting events, as well as motorcycle races. But it to be overbuilt, stated track designer Kenny Venberg, and also the security on the facility would presage future gaue won woes.

"They to be told that right off the bat, the it to be going to be a substantial problem for them," stated Venberg, a previous vice chairman of the civilization Karting Association. Further, that said, the place isn"t great.

"They had actually too big of a debt load, OK, and it was never ever going come fly," Venberg said.

Entities owned by the Samanta Roy Institute spent $8.7 million ~ above the track and adjacent amusement park from 2004 with 2008, according to a record the company filed in Delaware bankruptcy court in respectable 2009. A year later, in an affidavit filed in bankruptcy court in Wisconsin, academy CEO Naomi Isaacson - a sister the Shushanie Aschemann - stated the organization had actually "built a $12 million racetrack in Shawano."

Whatever the figure, the track was conveniently the institute"s largest solitary asset - but far indigenous its only one.

During 2004-"05, Samanta Roy reality spent much more than $4 million on various other properties and also businesses, and signed $7.5 million in soil contracts for still more.

By 2008, though, the buying was long over and litigation to be mounting. Creditor holding defense in four of the gas stations, two apartment buildings and the track had actually sued or claimed loans to be in default.

The hotels, meanwhile, to be suffering. Within just two years, indigenous 2006 come 2008, revenue fell by 54%, city room-tax numbers indicate. Revenue at the city"s various other two key hotels increased a an unified 11% throughout that period.

In court documents, institute representatives point out the economic recession as having actually hurt their businesses, yet overwhelmingly emphasize what they describe as a campaign of distinguish led by Shawano"s mayor.

Because the Cohen"s racial and religious background, "we have suffered indigenous unimaginable prejudice, discrimination and business interference in ~ the hands of Shawano city officials," Isaacson said in she 2010 affidavit in bankruptcy court in Wisconsin.

"Throughout the years, the city has issued many baseless citations and maliciously stormed (institute) businesses to intimidate and also harass (institute) personnel and customers with the target of running united state down financially," Isaacson wrote.

The conspiracy versus the academy extends far beyond Shawano, she alleged in the affidavit.

"According to what we have been told," she wrote, "through their usual race and also religion, Shawano market Lorna Marquardt has wrapped her tentacles around the judiciary system including Shawano Municipal judges, Shawano ar judges, Wisconsin Appellate Court judges, the commonwealth District Court judge in green Bay, seventh Circuit Appellate Court judges and even U.S. Bankruptcy Court referee Kevin pistol in Delaware."

A month later, Isaacson asserted in a Minnesota bankruptcy situation that "Marquardt is a descendant of young name Luther and also Hitler who started and also propagated the Lutheran cult." Isaacson defined Christianity together "the many dangerous death cult in human history whose sole function is come eradicate those that refuse to be converted."

The adhering to month, Bruce E. Scott, a Minnesota attorney and a plank member that the Samanta Roy Institute, said in a bankruptcy court paper that "Shawano is Neo-Nazi region where the is believed people of other races and religions have actually no ideal to life."

He likened the organization"s instance to the of Jews in Nazi Germany.

"Lorna"s forefather, Hitler, started the Holocaust to plunder the wealth and also properties of the Jews," Scott wrote. "Lorna Marquardt is doing no different."

Marquardt decreased to comment at length, citing pending litigation. In one email, she said: "The accusations around the City the Shawano and also me room outrageous and also untrue. The people who reside and also work here in ours beautiful neighborhood are exorbitant caring folks. This negativity affects united state all."


There have actually been occurrences of hostility towards Cohen"s group over the years.

In she 2010 affidavit in bankruptcy court in Wisconsin, Isaacson - who has claimed in a filing v the inner Revenue organization that she functions 80 hours a week as the institute CEO because that no pay - said people have driven previous the organization"s headquarters (Cohen"s house) "to scream obscene epithets, to throw rocks, eggs, tomatoes and beer bottles, come shoot arrows with the windows, and start the tree on fire."

Though not "an daily occurrence," harassment and also vandalism perform occur, Shawano county Sheriff Randy wright said. Probably to bait the ever-present guard in Cohen"s driveway, wright said, adolescents and also some adult "might moon them, they can throw egg at them, provide them the finger - that sort of thing."

Sheriff"s department reports show four incidents of vandalism in ~ Cohen"s residence over the critical 10 years, and also six others within around a half mile at various other properties owned by Cohen or the institute. 3 of those affiliated mailboxes being damaged or wrecked.

At the house, a auto was hit once by eggs and once by an unknown object the damaged that is windshield, and eggs were thrown at heavy equipment, follow to the reports. The reports also show that in 2002 someone took a large cardboard tube, fill it with gunpowder, sealed the ends and also exploded that in a field near Cohen"s house.

The most serious incident occurred in 1978, once someone fired .22-caliber bullets right into a bedroom window. Cohen"s mam was almost hit, the Shawano evening Leader reported.

Vandalism to Samanta Roy-affiliated enterprise has included the breaking of a home window at the downtown gift shop in 2006. A police report said someone may have actually fired at the window twice v a BB gun.

Conversations with around 30 Shawano-area inhabitants yielded a mixture the opinion on Cohen and the institute, but more negative 보다 positive. Critics said castle based their views not on race or religion yet on actions, such as the organization"s purchase of downtown storefronts the have since have stayed vacant or a supporter"s YouTube videos superimposing Marquardt"s head on photos of emaciated Holocaust victims and a cross dripping with blood.

"What"s sad is they"re . . . the nicest civilization - hardworking, kind, considerate. And also then they execute some real wacky stuff," claimed Dawn Bahr, owner that a farm save in Shawano alongside one the the gas stations.

Bahr trust the team may have actually some reason for complaint in the way local government has faced Samanta Roy businesses in ~ times. Local insurance certified dealer David Feivor said much the very same thing. But both additionally said the aggravations and also difficulties of handling the team probably influence the city"s approach.

"It"s not basic gig when they lambaste the community,"said Feivor, whose so late father sold one of the many hotels to an academy subsidiary, and who now holds an interest in the subsidiary"s debt.

Dale Vannes, a former setup commissioner in the city of Wescott, whereby Cohen"s home is located, claimed that whenever public official stopped building and construction work being excellent without a permit, they would be accused that discrimination.

"The saying was, "You"re just picking top top the doctor," " that said. "That"s what we heard constantly."


As creditors sue institute-controlled entities and also moved to foreclose, the organization and also its subsidiaries filed a cable of thing 11 bankruptcies - ripe of them, in four states, from March 2009 come March 2011.

Chapter 11 holds creditor at just while a financially troubled for sure reorganizes. With Samanta Roy and its subsidiaries, judges would certainly dismiss cases, opened the door for lenders to foreclose. But then the unit would appeal or paper a brand-new Chapter 11 action.

Most notable was the cross-country, hop-scotching to work of Midwest Oil of Minnesota LLC.

The subsidiary and also a successor, with three gas station/convenience store properties in Minnesota, filed 5 consecutive chapter 11 bankruptcy instances - 2 in Delaware, two in Minnesota and also one in brand-new York.

In June, though, with the U.S. Trustee arguing that the firm to be abusing the system with bad-faith filings aimed at thwarting creditors, a referee in Minnesota cut the string. He turned the instance into a thing 7 liquidation. Creditor took possession the the Minnesota gas stations, together with a St. Paul apartment building.

But the creditor on among the stations easily resold the residential property to a newly organized agency run by Isaacson, the institute"s CEO.

Meanwhile, a Delaware referee dismissed three connected Chapter 11 cases and also barred the Samanta Roy Institute and two the its subsidiaries native seeking bankruptcy protection again until August 2012.

That gave creditors one more shot. One lender take it possession of 2 eight-unit apartment structures in Shawano. An additional moved to solidify a $3.3 million referee it holds against the racetrack. A foreclosure activity is pending by a third creditor top top the institute"s fudge shop and also five various other commercial parcels.

For every its gaue won struggles, the academy still stop its Shawano gas stations. And while some people criticize their use of volunteer labor, their consistently low pricing shows up to generate secure traffic.


Cohen still own the residence north of Shawano and also 89 acres of neighboring land, but now resides on the eastern Coast and also commutes come Wisconsin, former members said. Nancy Ritland stated that if she was still v the team - she left in September 2007 - that returned most weekends to lead worship meetings.

Former members claimed Cohen and his wife moved when your son and daughter started college in the East. Their daughter, Deborah, passed away in 2007 that cancer.

Cohen own a 3,400-square-foot residence in the Baltimore area, inherited from Deborah, who bought the in 2001, land records show. Under renovation because that years, the house has been elaborately appointed, in ~ Cohen"s direction, invoice Stecker said. He stated he was in the residence scores of time from about 2002 come 2005, working on it for free.

The house, that said, to be fitted v cherry doors and also cabinets, Greek-key molding, floors inlaid through exotic woods in sophisticated patterns, inch-thick granite countertops, nearly 60 mirrors and top-of-the-line kitchen appliances. Stecker, that is the inventor on 11 patents, said he did much of the wood-finishing occupational at the house.

"It looks like a museum inside," he said.


People who have damaged from Cohen provide various reasons. Leah Gaworek said she started seeing contradictions in Cohen"s teachings, and that college process on compare religion and also philosophy offered her new perspective. Steve Ritland claimed he left since Cohen abandoned the brand-new Testament. Bill Stecker, who estimates that end 30 years he and also his wife offered hundreds of thousands of dollars come Cohen, stated fears for their financial future assisted persuade him and also Cathy to break the ties.

All four can surname the exact date they damaged away.

Gaworek, who had actually been staying in Cohen"s basement before she left - ~ above June 23, 2000 - said she sneaked away in the night. She claimed that also though she had actually stopped believing Cohen"s teachings, she was afraid he would be able to make her feel guilty around leaving.

"I knew that if he provided me the hell-and-brimstone great I would certainly cave," she said.

In interviews, Gaworek claimed she lived for an ext than 3 years in a edge of Cohen"s basement, witnessed teenage girls have their heads shaved for viewed misbehavior and had she belongings burned since she disobeyed Cohen"s orders.

In court in Minneapolis, she testified that she witnessed Cohen hit youngsters with a switch made of house wire, and also that as soon as when she to be 3 or 4 he shocked her with a cattle prod ~ above the face, neck and shoulders because she had disobeyed his order to stop crying.

But her harshest criticism is over something else. The worst thing Cohen has done, she said, is break-up families.

Gaworek, the Steckers and the Ritlands every say they"ve competent deep household estrangement.

Most that the Steckers" children additionally have broken with Cohen (Bill and also Cathy left top top June 30, 2005), yet their daughter Miriam continues to be loyal and also won"t speak v her parents, invoice Stecker said.

"Miriam has two kids that we"ve never seen," the said. "I"d prefer to to speak I miss out on them, yet I don"t since they don"t exist because that me."

Gaworek stated her mommy remains in the group, and that she 94-year-old mom - Gaworek"s granny - has not checked out her daughter in an ext than 35 years. Gaworek supplied to talk around her mother throughout visits and telephone calls, yet not anymore. It"s too hard to watch she grandmother cry.

A couple of years earlier Steve Ritland - that left the group March 19, 2001 - was in Maryland and also tried come see among his daughters, a physician and neuroscientist who works at the national Institutes the Health. The was allowed into her office building, he said, and waited while she comment to a message that she had a visitor. According to Ritland, she emerged through a protection door, stared in ~ him for a few moments in astonishment, then wheeled around and also disappeared without speak a word.

For all their regrets, Cohen"s previous followers have carved out brand-new lives, although through difficulty.

"To phone call yourself that 33 years of her life to be a large mistake is hard to admit," Nancy Ritland said.

For a lengthy time after ~ leaving, bill Stecker struggled to gain a spirituality perspective the left him in ~ peace. The finally uncovered it in the words of an elderly friend, a carpenter named Whitey. Stecker had actually been complaining about the casual method people dressed and also behaved at his brand-new church - so different from the brethren"s seriousness - once Whitey cautioned him through a straightforward but compelling message.

"He says, "Bill, don"t obtain a an essential spirit. That"s all. Simply don"t obtain a critical spirit. Lord"ll take care of everything else."

"And then i realized that the key to Shawano to be you emerged this crucial nature toward whatever that wasn"t you, every little thing that wasn"t the group."

Nancy Ritland, that left Sept. 6, 2007, has all however lost her children from her very first marriage, i beg your pardon she stated Cohen arranged. One functions in the Shawano gas stations, one more manages one of the hotels and the 3rd is a handyman, she said. Once she telephones, she said, they cave up top top her, yet at least she hears your voices.

It"s something. And also she has Steve.

They met again by chance, not long after she left Shawano, as soon as he was visiting one more former member in Superior. Nancy occurred to be remaining there temporarily and, having just set out top top a new path, had lots that errands come do.

"So ns took her around town and also we discovered that we enjoyed each other"s company," Steve said.

A month later, in ~ a Christian conference in Duluth, they take it a leap of faith - in each other. Nancy, traumatized by the separation from she children and also the abrupt change in she life, responded to Steve"s problem for her. Their common background helped carry them together too, in addition to a mutual interest in the spirituality life. In less than a year they were married.

A couple of months back they took another huge step. They sold the tiny ranch home in Rochester, Minn., whereby Steve had actually lived for 43 years, where he and his first wife raised eight children, and also where Nancy had actually stayed through them because that a while together a young woman who had actually just damaged away from her parents and joined Cohen"s group.

They pack up Steve"s well-thumbed King James Bible and also their worldly goods and headed to southern Missouri and a brand-new home - six acres that land through an orchard, a spring, a little house and a chicken-raising service to save them busy.

See more: How Does A Soda Can Calorimeter Work? Soda Can Calorimeter

A job after they left Minnesota for good, Steve take it time to reflect top top the move and also post a post on Facebook.

" . . . I feel free and full of joy," that wrote. "The Lord has actually helped united state all the way."