Inside a UFO Doomsday Cult in Tubac: Gabriel of Urantia
- A cult living in an isolated desert commune in Tumacacori/Tubac, AZ near the border has raised alarm over its leaders UFO doomsday predictions and heavy use of indoctrination, surveillance and control.
- The 120 members are required to turn over their homes, cars, money, businesses and possessions to the cult leader.
- Former followers claim they are covering up child sex abuse and that members have died from being denied medical care and being "worked to death."
- Members are required to work 40-60 hours a week of hard labor for no pay despite old age, illness or physical limitations.
- Gabriel of Urantia told Dateline he was Martin Luther, King Arthur, and George Washington in previous lives. He claims to be the "Planetary Prince" and that a space alien named Paladin speaks through him.
- Gabriel aka Tony Delevin has wrongly predicted doomsday end of the world events and told his followers they'd be rescued by spaceships.
- Polygamy is allowed for Gabriel but not members who must remain celibate until marriage.
- Gabriel is also the lead singer of a "Spiritual CosmoPop" group called TaliasVan & The Bright & Morning Star Band.
- He recently said that Jesus will come back in 2024 on a Mothership spaceship the size of "four states." He also recently said millions will die during the "tribulation."
- Ex-members allege billionaire hedge fund manager Michael Steinheardt financed the cult's compound in Tumacacori in order to maintain visitation with his son Daniel who is in the cult.
- Gabriel's son Amadon is now set to take over command of the cult.
Be Scofield is the author of the new book Hunting Lucifer: One Reporter's Search for Cults and Demons. Her reporting is mentioned in New York Times, Rolling Stone, Playboy, People and has led to coverage on Netflix, Dr. Phil, VICE and elsewhere. CONTACT: firstname.lastname@example.org
"They allow sexual abuse of children," says Shiloh, an ex-member of Gabriel of Urantia’s group that was based in Sedona for decades. "I was sexually abused for a couple of years at 5 and 6 years old and they covered it up," she recently told a podcast that investigated the cult. "There were a couple of [abusers] but one main one," Shiloh said.
Around the age of 12 or 13 Shiloh was called into a "counseling" session by cult leadership. "I got called into a meeting with Linda Cunningham [Marayeh] and Gabriel's wife [Niann]. They sat me down and told me that he had told them what had happened." Linda and Niann said the man would be writing her an apology letter which he never did. "They pushed it under the rug, but I got put onto a program. I wasn't allowed to be alone with men." She said she felt like she was being blamed. The police were never called.
Psychologist Linda Cunningham had spent years refining her coercive counseling techniques in another cult called Synanon before joining Gabriel of Urantia's group.
Shiloh said her abuser later admitted being attracted to boys as well. "He has verbally said that he's had an attraction to little boys as well. He's done things to animals. He's a sick person and he should be in jail. And it just blows my mind that they allow that. They basically allow sexual abuse there because they're not doing anything about the abusers.”
When her abuser came after her again when she was 14 the cult leadership told her to “stop flaunting” herself.
For decades many children were raised in Sedona, Arizona but in 2007 the group relocated to an isolated and gated compound in Tubac or Tumacacori, Arizona twenty minutes from the border. They now describe themselves as an "intentional community" called Avalon Gardens and Eco-Village where 120 of Gabriel's disciples live behind a gate. A former member claims they are "stockpiling guns." Gabriel claims to be the "Planetary Prince" and tells his followers they will be rescued by space ships during a doomsday end of the world event. Gabriel claims to be the "most highly evolved human being on the planet." The group used to be called Aquarian Concepts Community and now goes by Global Community Communications Alliance.
In his podcast, The So-Called Prophet from Pittsburgh, host Joseph L. Flately interviewed another woman who experienced sexual abuse as a child in Gabriel of Urantia's Sedona cult. "She named names, children, girls who had been abused, and the men and boys who had allegedly abused them," he stated. Flately said there "were four girls whose abuse she disclosed in detail."
The former member said she was abused by a caregiver in the cult when she was four to six years old. "I don't know who decided or how it was decided, but he was our caregiver for a while," she said. "We spent hours every day with him. And I remember he showed us his penis a lot. He asked us inappropriate questions. When he slept over with us, he did ask us to sleep naked on top of him. And I just remember saying I would, and I felt really ashamed and I felt really dirty. I just felt so disgusting the next night. I do remember after he left we told our parents about him showing us his penis, but I'd never told them about him asking us to lie naked on him."
At the age of 10, she was sexually abused by a 13-year-old. "If we were sitting together he would just stick his hand in my pants, underneath, and start by grabbing my private parts and messing around with them for long periods of time. He'd always put a backpack or a pillow over our laps. This is happening in classes when we were doing math. He would just do it everywhere. I'm not even kidding. Everywhere." The woman said her abuser eventually confessed to the elders in the cult. She said, "he basically gets erections when he sees young men peeing and likes to show his erect penis to children. I think there's definitely things he could have done that were worse."
The authorities were never called. "The matter was referred to the Personality Integration and Rehabilitation Program," in the cult Flatley states. It’s also known as PIRP.
PIRP was developed by the group's psychologist Linda Cunningham, known as Marayeh in the cult. She spent fifteen years in a cult called Synanon from 1973 to 1989 before becoming a key leader in Gabriel of Urantia’s group. She developed the thought reform counseling techniques that Shiloh was put through when she came forward with her accounts of sexual abuse. All members are required to routinely undergo intensive counseling.
"When anyone becomes a member, they are required to give everything they own to the community and Gabriel, and he controls it all."
Marayeh also developed the "chip game,” a system where members conduct extensive surveillance and reporting on each other. Members give chips to each other when they witness discretions and Gabriel ends up with their written reports of how they violated his rules. Marayeh also brought the method known as "The Game" from Synanon where members viciously attack each other's vulnerabilities.
Separating Kids from Families
A 2007 article in the Sedona Red Rock News called “Gabriel Separates Families and Friends” included interviews with former members. "Gabriel will remove children from families to other places," in the community an ex-member named Medina said. "In one case a child remains in the community although the single mother has left.” Former members who spoke out in the Dateline episode also said Gabriel removes children from parents.
A woman in the podcast described Gabriel’s home as an “orphanage” filled with other people’s kids. Over fifty percent of children allegedly do not live with their parents.
Many former members have described the extensive relationship tampering done by Gabriel including arranging and breaking up dozens of marriages. "It is common practice for couples and families to be separated by Gabriel," John Thurstin told Sedona Red Rock News.
One man told the podcast he was given a 21-point “rehabilitation” checklist and could no longer be alone with his children or mother. He was under constant supervision, forced into classes, made to do written assignments, and had several meetings a day with a “soul watcher.”
Family on the outside are treated harshly or cut off entirely. Members are given new names as well which served to distance themselves from their old selves.
"It's not gun control that we need, it's thought control." - Gabriel of Urantia
Cults destabilize relationships to prevent stable, healthy bonding and loving attachments that could be stronger than what they have for the group or leader.
Members report that punishments have become more severe over time. "There's this one girl, they took away everything in her room. She was sleeping on the floor," Shiloh told the podcast. "They took away her bed. She had one pair of clothes that she had to hand wash. She was in isolation, couldn't play with her friends. You had to earn back all your toys, your clothes, your bed."
In this clip Gabriel says he was Martin Luther, King Arthur & George Washington / He also channels a "perfect alien being"
"When anyone becomes a member, they are required to give everything they own to the community and Gabriel, and he controls it all," an ex-member named John Thurstin told Sedona Red Rock News. "This would include all their money, bank and savings accounts, credit cards, vehicles, businesses, land, and property of any kind." Gabriel told Dateline news that he required members to give up 100% of their money and possessions. Members are required to create wills where the sole beneficiaries are Gabriel and Niann.
After the Dateline expose in 1998 and the later series in Sedona's Red Rock News Gabriel was pressured to leave the town. The community believed he was dangerous locals told me.
In this clip Gabriel says Jesus will return in 2024 and arrive on a Mothership spaceship the size of four states
During an interview in her Sedona home, a former member “Cathy” told me people died because Gabriel wouldn’t allow medical care. She said one woman died from internal bleeding, and others from things like untreated heart disease. Cathy said they had a “quack” doctor in the group and that outside medical treatment was generally not permitted.
Ex-member John Thurstin almost died due to Gabriel’s control over medical decisions. He detailed his ordeal in a 2007 article in Sedona’s Red Rock News. He said the cult forced him to return to work two days after his heart stopped and had suffered a concussion after passing out. Despite his old age, they said it was his “duty to the community” and would be an “inconvenience to everyone else” if he stopped.
Gabriel's Children Ellanora Dellerba and Amadon have been propped up to take over the cult
A few days later Thurstin had heart surgery and was given orders to rest. The cult's in-house doctor, Dr. Lawrence (Landau), told him not to get the surgery but Thurstin did anyway. The group’s psychologist, Linda Cunningham aka Marayeh, accused him of “recruiting the other doctors out of pride and obstinacy.” Dr. Lawrence accused him of “recruiting other doctors to get out of work.”
Gabriel says Jesus will return in 2024 in a Mothership spaceship the size of four states.
“Dr. Lawrence had been given highly unusual instructions by Gabriel to attend all of the appointments of community members whenever they were able to see any doctors outside the community,” Thurstin writes. He said there was no doctor-patient confidentiality and all medical records were given to Gabriel, Niann and Marayeh to maintain control over followers.
When Thurstin later was diagnosed with prostate cancer Dr. Lawrence told him not to follow through with the advised protocol of surgery, radiation or chemotherapy. Instead, he told him to do nothing for six months. Dr. Lawrence scheduled to give him B-12 shots but failed to show up for any of the appointments over the course of 43 days.
Cathy also echoed the claims of inadequate medical care, saying members could not get appointments with the group's doctor and were left to suffer with untreated conditions. Instead, Gabriel tries to heal people with his hands, acting as a catalyst and then channeling his power into other members to amplify it.
"No, they were not getting regular medical care at all," a former member named Jackie told the podcast. "He was not a good doctor. At one point, my daughter had the worst fever I've ever seen in a child. She had a fever like 105, like to the point where we were like putting her in the bath, the slightly lukewarm bath. And still we're not going the hospital." Jackie continued. "You don't get to decide if you go the dentist or not. You don't get to decide who your doctor is. You don't get to decide if you get to have decent care or not, or if your daughter gets to almost be killed from a high fever. You just have to accept like whatever tiny crumbs of care come your way."
“I was told my son died because of my lack of faith in Gabriel,” a man who left the cult told the podcast. The two-year-old's death, which happened in the group after the father fled, was later ruled as sudden infant death syndrome, a general term for an unexplained death. He lost his family to the cult. “Gabriel has already taken my mother, my brother, my sister, and basically every other blood relation I have,” he said in reference to Gabriel’s attempt to keep his other child in the cult.
"You don't get to decide if your daughter gets to almost be killed from a high fever."
Beth Sundberg-Leoni had a bachelor’s in nursing and had worked in the field before arriving in Gabriel’s cult. She recommended a decongestant one time and advised the children’s immunizations to be kept updated but she was shut down. ''Gabriel discerns health needs," she told Sedona Red Rock News.
During a visit with her granddaughter in the community, Janet Helminiak saw a serious red flag over her health. "I'm trying to find out as much as I can about the community because I'm concerned about my granddaughter," she cried to the reporter.
Gabriel's daughter, Sanskrita Dellerba, fled the cult in 2017 at the age of 28. She told the Urantia Book Network podcast she didn't know the difference between a credit card and a debit card. She had never been into a bank and never "really driven a car." She was "mortified" when her boyfriend gave her his account, routing number, and cash to deposit. "I was shaking," she said. "Everywhere I went that was beyond ten minutes from the church headquarters was managed," she said. Someone accompanied her at all times. "I had never done anything by myself.”
Gabriel told his followers that he couldn’t protect them when the end of the earth came if they were outside of a protected 5-mile zone around Sedona.
In this clip Gabriel's daughter says she didn't know the difference between a credit and debit card when she left
After Sanskrita fled, the cult funded an operation to retrieve her. Three cult members were flown across the country, eventually tracked her down, found her at a bar and chased her down the street. Sanskrita never returned to the cult.
Children were homeschooled in the community but for many years it was woefully inadequate Dellerba said. Eight-year-old kids didn't know how to read. It wasn't until a woman with teaching experience showed up that the kids began getting a proper education.
Gabriel's children had it good compared to other members, Cathy told me. She along with other members did 40 hours a week of hard manual labor for no pay. They cut trees and cleared land. Punishment would mean cleaning toilets and digging ditches. Gabriel's family was spared from this.
Others worked over 60 hours a week. Cathy showed me a photo of an elderly woman whom she claimed was “worked to death” in her late 70s. The woman had given everything to the group and they forced her to work up until she died despite her frail health.
"I am the commander of a fleet of three thousand spacecraft that will participate in the evacuation of the planet when the change point comes. You are needed to help us prepare for this evacuation. It will not be an easy task." - Gabriel of Urantia
A woman interviewed in the podcast said they lived in “poverty-like” conditions while Gabriel and his family lived in luxury and a mansion. John Thurstin told Red Rock News members were jammed into “tents, yurts, shacks or garages.” He said privacy was “non-existent.” Beth said 4 to 5 families lived in one home at a time in Sedona.
"I began to see a burgeoning iniquity and an incredible megalomania in Gabriel," a a former member named Dr. Byron Weeks said. He described it as a “fanatical cult.” Gabriel told him he was "doomed to eternal enslavement on a fallen planet called 'Dandross,'" for leaving, reported cult expert Rick Ross.
Cathy confirmed that members couldn’t shop at stores, buy groceries, travel, have outside jobs, see family or do anything without express permission. “Members are not allowed to have any friends outside of the [group], including in Sedona, and they are not allowed to ride in any cars other than those belonging to the group,” Thurstin told the newspaper.
Similar to Jonestown, the social security checks of older members are collected by Gabriel.
"Everyone is watched and controlled," Janet Helminiak told the Arizona Republic. "I eventually felt I had no control over my life." A long-term member told Nogales International that students' "access to books, music, television, movies, news and the internet is always previewed and supervised."
Linda Cunningham aka Marayeh brought the method known as "The Game" from Synanon to Gabriel's cult. And just like in Synanon intensive counseling sessions were mandated for all members in the cult. The Game is a method where individuals are viciously attacked by the group. After talking about insecurities and vulnerabilities the group would shout the person down. "After everyone in the room had attacked the target with the most extreme invective in their arsenal he then had to thank everyone," writes Joseph Flately about the practice in Gabriel's group.
Members also had to write daily and weekly "reports" to the leadership. It was all part of an extensive system of control over the lives of Gabriel’s devotees.
Gabriel's son Amadon is now positioned to take over the cult
Funded by a Billionaire?
In his book about Gabriel called New Age Grifter, author Joseph Flatley interviews ex-members who allege billionaire hedge fund manager Michael Steinhardt secretly funded the financing of the new Avalon Eco-Village compound in Tumacacori. His son Daniel is in the cult and ex-members claim Michael brokered a deal with Gabriel. They allege Michael funded the 165-acre cult ranch under the condition that his son could visit his family with no strings attached.
A long-term ex-member with deep inside knowledge also confirmed to me that Michael Steinhardt did fund the cult's compound. He paid off the entire mortgage and the group does not have to pay him pack.
An ex-member named Jackie told Flatley in his book that she spent many years talking with Michael and Judy Steinhardt. Jackie says that Michael sent her $10,000 and flew her to New York. She met with Michael and his attorney in the penthouse office to debrief them on the inner workings of the cult. "He questioned me about everything I knew about the [cult's] finances," Jackie told the author. She said he asked how Gabriel operated and how the cult worked.
"The Steinhardts did what they what had to do to stay in contact with their son and grandkids," Janet Helminiack said in the book. "Unfortunately they funded [the cult] to stay solvent." Helminiack is who introduced Jackie to the Steinhardts.
"It's unfortunate that they now financially support the cult," Jackie said in the book. She also told Flatley that since Michael and Judy support the cult financially that she consider's her previous agreement to stay silent about the $10,000 gift null and void.
"Daniel and his family are able to leave the compound, to travel, and to visit his family in New York – a privilege that other community members do not have," writes Flatley.
The cult owns a building in Tubac with multiple businesses where Daniel Steinhardt operates his Magic land real estate company. They also own Spirit Step tours, a legal firm, an Airbnb and a Hospice.
Is Gabriel Planning a Doomsday Exit?
Gabriel wrongly predicted doomsday events in the past. His daughter says they had bunkers, stockpiled supplies and made preparations for the end of the world. He told them spaceships were going to rescue them. When it didn't happen she said he creatively explained it away. She never thought she'd see the age of 18.
Recently, Gabriel has said Jesus will come back in 2024. He's recently warned of millions dying in the tribulation. He says his followers have the "fourth dimensional" way. They are soldiers training like marines for the end times. And Gabriel is in his late 70s becoming more frail and agitated. Since relocating to Tumacacori Gabriel's grip has tightened. The community now lives in a gated compound and his rules have become stricter.
I spoke with a resident in Tubac who told me it's known by locals the large yellow temple building is where Gabriel believes the spaceships will take his followers from.
"My dad was losing it. He was more and more angry," Sanskrita said about her decision to leave. "The way he treated one of the older ladies was despicable. It really shocked me."
It's hard to know if a cult could turn deadly but every mechanism of control is in place for Gabriel's to do so.
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Be Scofield is the author of the new book Hunting Lucifer: One Reporter's Search for Cults and Demons.
- Sedona Red Rock News Reporting on Gabriel
- A 1997 snapshot of "Gabriel of Sedona" by Rick Ross
- Order in Tubac prepares for apocalypse
- Gabriel of Urantia Podcast: The So-Called Prophet from Philidelphia
- New Age Grifter: The True Story of Gabriel of Urantia and His Cosmic Family
- Dateline News Segment on Gabriel