They sue a sect that promised a better life to its members: mistreated them, took money from them and made them work as free servants

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An alleged secret New York City cult was brought to justice by two former criminals who claimed to have been deceived, scammed, and physically and emotionally exploited by their founders, according to local media.

Stephanie Rosenberg and Marjorie Hochman filed a lawsuit in Manhattan’s Supreme Court against Odyssey Study Group (OSG) and their leaders, the deceased couple Sharon Gans Horn y Alex Horn. According to court documents, the two women joined the congregation in 2005 because they believed it would help them “improve their lives financially, physically and spiritually.” To access the supposed benefits they paid $ 400 a month.

OSG promoted itself as a school for the study of self-knowledge based on the teachings of the philosophers Gueorgui Guiurdzhiev and Pyotr Uspensky. He controlled his students through verbal abuse and the promise of self-development through physical labor. Rosenberg and Hochman allege that they acted like maids for the Horns, cooking, cleaning and serving as assistants and drivers, and “all they received for their work was trauma, emotional distress and other injuries.”

The applicants claim that, as members, they witnessed physical and mental abuse, child and sexual abuse and financial crimes, among others. They also accuse Gans Horn of having squeezed millions of dollars from his followers to maintain his luxurious lifestyle. That would have allowed him to buy an $ 8 million apartment in New York’s prestigious Plaza Hotel, and other “properties in the US and Mexico.”

Despite deprivation and separation from their families, many remained with the group for years. “Through methods traditionally used by cults to groom, intimidate, and weaken their victims, OSG coerced and deceived its members“, the victims denounce.

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Hochman and Rosenberg exited the group in 2016 and 2019 respectively. Both claim that they remained affiliated for so long for fear of being rejected and isolated from the community, after OSG became his “whole world”. With this demand, they ask for the reimbursement of all the monthly payments that they contributed along with the payment of thousands of hours of work unpaid. The document names several of OSG’s surviving leaders, to whom Horn bequeathed the continuity of the cult and to the trustees of the Gans estate.

Sharon Gans Horn, who was also an actress, famous for the film ‘Slaughterhouse-Five’ (1972), founded a first sect with her husband in the 1970s in San Francisco, known as the Theater of All Possibilities. They fled that city after the San Francisco Chronicle published in 1978 reports of child abuse and financial crimes that linked them. Years later they founded Odyssey Study Group in Manhattan.

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