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A new kind of crisis recently befell the Church of Scientology, accusations serious enough to reduce those Suri-sippy-cup and Will Smith Brainwash Academy rumors to mere enturbulatory afterthoughts: An ex-member has filed a $250 million suit against the Church in Florida, invoking federal racketeering statutes generally reserved for the Mafia and other crime syndicates. Even more ambitiously, the suit reportedly names Tom Cruise as a primary conspirator in Scientology's global scheme, which plaintiff Peter Letterese claims to have encompassed threats and harassment of himself and his attorney. It's a devastating charge that stands to upend celebrity religion as we know it — more details and a brief analysis by the Defamer Legal Team follow after the jump.We know, we know: Racketeering? Scientologists? But they seem so modest! Nevertheless, as we're learning today, it's not just the Catholics who allegedly have ethics-challenged leeches dangling from the flock's soft flesh:

Letterese calls the church a "crime syndicate" and wants it broken up under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization [RICO] law, just as the feds have broken up Mafia families. He singles out Cruise, who's made no secret of his religion, saying that Scientology head David Miscavage is "aided and abetted by the actions of Tom Cruise, his right-hand man for foreign and domestic promotion, as well as for foreign and domestic lobbying. He has assisted the syndicate in acquiring funds and [made] his own donations of money believed to be in the multiple tens of millions of dollars." One of Letterese's beefs is that the church allegedly uses a business book, Effective Sales Closing Techniques, as part of its teachings. He says this violates his intellectual property rights, since he bought the rights to the book from the widow of author Leslie Dane.

A Scientology spokesman refutes all the claims, particularly the latter, which he said was already thrown out of another court. Scary Hollywood Lawyer Bert Fields, meanwhile, isn't talking on behalf of his client Cruise. We can't blame him, with previous CO$ scandals implicating Smith and Kirstie Alley both suggesting that the Scientologists aren't above calling in a hit when thetans get out of hand. Indeed, the whole thing sets up a scenario eerily reminiscent of the final shot of The Godfather, where a bellowing Cruise resists Katie Holmes inquiries before relenting for exactly one question about the reach of his nefarious religious dealings: "Is it true?" To which he responds with a blank-faced beat, a long stare beneath her severe bangs and, finally, the modulated, memorable reply: "You're being glib."