Some local residents, former supporters file lawsuit, claim Kabbalah Centre misused donations

Some funding earmarked for San Diego project

SOLANA BEACH, Calif. - Several local residents and former supporters of the Kabbalah Centre have sued the Los Angeles-based spiritual center, alleging it misused more than $1 million, including donations earmarked for a Kabbalah Centre building in San Diego that was never built.

In the complaint, Carolyn Cohen, a real estate broker and president of the Solana Beach Chamber of Commerce, alleges that she and one of her companies lost about $810,000 in contributions and interest on loans she took out to cover her contributions.

Two other plaintiffs, Randi and Charles Wax, who own a San Diego-based sanitation supply business, claims losses of more than $326,000.

According to the complaint, the Kabbalah Centre pressured to "give money until it hurts," and the supporters did just that for the new building and for a children's charity. The charity abruptly ceased operation and Kabbalah leaders recently sent letters announcing plans for the San Diego chapter were being scrapped. A "building fund" was set aside for the new chapter, the complaint said.

The plaintiffs, members for about a decade, said they made large donations to the Los Angeles center.

The complaint alleges the Kabbalah Centre has a history of raising money for projects that never come to fruition.

The Kabbalah spiritualism, which draws on Jewish mysticism, has attracted followers due in part with its association with celebrities, including Madonna, Britney Spears and Ashton Kutcher.

Alain Bonavida, attorney for the former members, said it's not a surprise.

"They solicited money for various projects that never came to fruition ... That type of behavior is historically commonplace at the center," said Bonavida.

Bonavida said the money went to benefit the Kabbalah leaders and their associates.

When Cohen asked for her money back, she said she was warned it is "extremely dangerous for you spiritually."

"My clients have bravely decided not to become another of Kabbalah Centre's silent victims and we look forward to resolving this matter at trial ... but also look forward to exposing the Kabbalah Centre's true nature," said Bonavida.

Combined, the three former members are suing for more than $60 million, much of that punitive damages.

10News reached out to the Kabbalah Centre, but the Centre did not call back.

In 2010, the Internal Revenue Service and federal prosecutors in New York opened a tax evasion probe looking at the Kabbalah Centre. The current status of the investigation is not known.

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