A Man with No Moral Compass
Read About Aaron Smith-Levin, an angry man spreading hate from the Internet’s shadows
An expelled former staff member of the Church of Scientology, Aaron Smith-Levin is a bitter, vindictive and at times violent man.
After repeated reports of harassment and bullying, Smith-Levin was ousted from the Church. Instead of getting on with his life and becoming a productive citizen helping to create a better world, Smith-Levin carried on his sociopathic and unethical behavior. Smith-Levin currently makes a living via a house-flipping business, hiring ex-convicts and Mike Rinder to do the work, as his house-painting underling. Rinder prefers painting lies, consulting at $175 an hour for ambulance-chasing attorneys and anti-religious propagandists to spread discrimination, hatred and religious intolerance.
Caught up in a federal investigation
House-flipping is Smith-Levin’s new occupation. After he was kicked out of the religious order, Smith-Levin worked in research for a corporate intelligence firm from October 2009 to September 2013, when he left to start his own company, OTG (On the Ground) Research Group. OTG conducted investment research for hedge funds. To start his new company, Smith-Levin was given a loan of $100,000 by an individual who was part of the anti-Scientology clique.
Smith-Levin’s company made news in December 2015 after working for William Ackman, a billionaire hedge fund operator. In April 2015, the Wall Street Journal reported that Ackman was under investigation by the FBI for potential manipulation of Herbalife’s shares. The article states that “prosecutors in the Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s Office and New York field office of the FBI are investigating whether people, including some hired by Mr. Ackman, made false statements about Herbalife’s business model to regulators and others in order to spur investigations into the company and lower its stock price.”a186ebbb-54d1
The article went on to state, “The criminal investigation into potential market manipulation is pursuing multiple lines of inquiry. One area of focus, however, is the work of a consultant, Aaron Smith-Levin, who helped with the March presentation, people familiar with the matter said. He was commissioned by Mr. Ackman and his fund to scrutinize Herbalife’s business in China.”
“The criminal investigation into potential market manipulation is pursuing multiple lines of inquiry. One area of focus, however, is the work of a consultant, Aaron Smith‑Levin.”
An attorney for Herbalife, Barry Goldsmith of the prestigious law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, wrote to Smith-Levin putting him on notice to immediately stop offering to compensate Herbalife employees if they illegally provided him with confidential, proprietary and privileged information belonging to the company. In the letter, Goldsmith called Smith-Levin’s actions “extremely troubling.” He wrote: “Your last ‘research’ project, which you conducted on behalf of Mr. Ackman as part of his campaign against Herbalife, reached erroneous conclusions and was premised upon false and fabricated information. It is clear that your latest endeavors are simply continuations of this campaign, which, as I am sure you are aware, is reportedly under criminal investigation by the Department of Justice and the FBI.”
Disconnecting from his wife’s family
Business and religion are not the only areas of Smith-Levin’s life in turmoil made worse by Smith-Levin’s explosive temper. After befriending Rinder, Smith-Levin became vicious in his attacks not only against the Church but his own family. He and his wife, Heather, chose to disconnect from them.
Anne Tozser, mother of Heather Smith-Levin, describes how their son-in-law prevents them from seeing their grandchildren.
“We have three beautiful grandchildren that are absolutely beautiful children,” Anne said. “His actions have torn us apart. They’ve just torn the family apart and it’s unforgivable to me to do this to a family.”
Anne recalls a text Smith-Levin sent her after he became angry when she and her husband raised concerns about his explosive temper toward their daughter. Smith-Levin wrote: “We will not be bringing the children over to see you. You will not be seeing the kids again.”
Said Anne: “He pulled away and said you will no longer be able to see your grandkids.”
Having seen how his son-in-law bullies his daughter, Heather’s father, Imre, recalls Smith-Levin “going into her face… put his face two inches from her face and said, ‘So what the f*** are you going to do about it?’”
Anne recalls witnessing Smith-Levin’s anger up close, frightening her. “I've seen instances where he would snap. He has two little girls. … Something was happening with them, and he picked the older daughter up and flipped her over and held her like this and spanked her with as much force as he could … So at that point I said to Heather, Aaron cannot act like this in my home. I don’t want him acting like this in my home anymore. This is not acceptable to me. That’s just an instance of him blowing up, just losing it.”
“I’ve seen Aaron snap at Heather. I've seen Aaron snap at his kids. He just kind of would explode.”
Erica Sledge, Smith-Levin’s sister-in-law, has repeatedly witnessed her brother-in-law’s violent outbursts, including in front of his own family. As she tells it: “I’ve seen Aaron snap at Heather. I've seen Aaron snap at his kids. He just kind of would explode hostilely towards her. … She would be asking him for something and then he would snap and antagonistically reply to her. I had never expected that he would respond that way. In my family we don’t talk to each other like that. My husband and I never would talk to each other like that. My dad would never talk to my mother like that. And I was surprised to see that he would respond in that way. And then Heather would just kind of back away from what was said. And his kids as well.”
Anne, Heather’s mother, says that Smith-Levin dominated Heather and that she didn’t have the courage to stand up to him. “There were several instances when Imre [Smith-Levin’s father-in-law] was working with Aaron trying to explain something and Aaron would blow up and get into Imre’s face… Aaron had left the kitchen messy and Imre said could you please put your stuff away when you're done, put your dishes away. And he blew up in Imre’s face at that. Just right in Imre’s face. And then my daughter Catarina was there and she said, ‘Aaron you don’t need to get in Dad’s face you don’t need to do that.’ And then he got in Catarina’s face. … He would snap.”
“After [Heather] married Aaron that seemed to change. She seemed to be more withdrawn and not say what she thought or felt, and she had this fear about her.”
Erica, Smith-Levin’s sister-in-law, said that he has changed her sister for the worse. “I think Heather is frightened of Aaron,” Erica said. “Before she met him she was a very outgoing person. She said what was on her mind. She wanted to achieve something and she would go out and achieve it. Nothing would stop her. And she was very dynamic. After she married Aaron that seemed to change. She seemed to be more withdrawn and not say what she thought or felt, and she had this fear about her.”
Violent disputes with his brother Collin
Smith-Levin has a shameful history of violence, notably with the brother he comically mourned on TV for the cameras. Sarah Ehrlich, mother of the son fathered by Smith-Levin’s late brother, Collin, said “Uncle Aaron” profited off his brother’s death and went so far as to drain the money his late brother left behind, money that her son was supposed to have received when he turned 18. Sarah’s son had received an inheritance from his father, and she said that Aaron Smith-Levin “wiped the account clean” after promising he would invest it for her son. According to Sarah, Aaron had no relationship with Collin. The two, she said, were estranged after violent fights between them.
Collin died tragically as a passenger in a car accident in April 2003 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Collin and two friends, intoxicated, were driving home from a strip bar in the early morning hours.
Sarah, the mother of Collin’s son, said that the two fought so violently that Collin moved out of the house and into an apartment with friends at the age of 15, to protect himself from Aaron.
Aaron tries to blame others for the fact that his relationship with his brother had especially deteriorated a year before his death. Sarah, the mother of Collin’s son, said that the two fought so violently that Collin moved out of the house and into an apartment with friends at the age of 15, to protect himself from Aaron.
Said Sarah: “Their relationship was finished at fifteen years old when Collin moved out because of Aaron constantly beating him up. Collin would definitely fight back but had enough and he moved out.”
Sarah knew about Aaron Smith-Levin’s uncontrollable rages. “I really saw his true colors when we were in Philadelphia in a small theatre. He shut the door and was in my face yelling at me. I don’t even remember why. … I had no idea why he was getting into my business and in such a rage about it.”
Sarah says that when Collin moved to Los Angeles, Aaron and Collin were not communicating at all. “Collin was having problems and he started getting involved in drugs and drinking,” she said.
In addition to the violent fights with his brother, Smith-Levin’s long history of violent behavior was a problem when he worked for the Church, which gave him opportunity after opportunity to fulfill his promise to change and become a better person. Smith-Levin was finally kicked out of the Church’s religious order a decade ago after incidents were reported in which he abused his colleagues. To make matters worse, women and older co-workers were often his targets.
“The slightest thing just sets him off and he just goes totally nuts.”
Former colleague Ben Francis recalls of Smith-Levin: “The slightest thing just sets him off and he just goes totally nuts.”
As Julie McClosky, a former colleague, described him: “He was an extremely antagonistic, angry person, picked a lot of fights, a lot of unnecessary fights, and generally was not someone you would want to spend time with or be in a room with for long.”
Still another former colleague, Genci Duraj, recalled Smith-Levin exploding in response to a simple question about a job-related matter: “Smith-Levin exploded, screaming ‘I’m going to just kill you. I’m going to throw this chair against your head and you’re going to be dead right now. Don’t ask me these questions. I know exactly what I’m doing and you just need to shut up.’… If two guys were not there to stop him, he would have actually hit the person in the head with a chair and that person would have been dead.”
Smith-Levin refuses to change his unacceptable behavior
Smith-Levin was on the verge of being expelled a number of times. Repeated efforts were made to help him straighten up and treat others with decency and respect. “We tried to give Aaron Smith-Levin so many opportunities for him to become a better person. We felt we could help him. He just refused any of that,” Duraj said.
But in the end, he refused to change. When Smith-Levin was finally dismissed from the Church’s religious order in May 2006, staff members were relieved to see him go.
Smith-Levin’s incorrigible behavior started almost from the day he started working for the Church in Philadelphia. He was unable to restrain his violent temper. The same thing happened after Smith-Levin joined the religious order in 2002 in Los Angeles. Soon after there were reports of his bullying and violence toward his colleagues. In fact, he is widely considered the worst staff member in the history of the American Saint Hill Organization, where he volunteered.
Bitter about his dismissal, Smith-Levin and his mother began quietly supporting a small network of rabid anti-Scientologists. Neither did so openly, instead conducting themselves in a clandestine fashion and covertly supporting those obsessed with harassing the Church and its parishioners, much like Mike Rinder. Smith-Levin began to obsess over getting revenge for having been kicked out for his violent behavior through his activities with an anti-Scientology hate group, posting rants under the pseudonym of “First.”
Smith-Levin’s life is “first” and foremost dedicated to spreading hate and religious bigotry.