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About

The Gentle Wind Project

Other Main Names:

  • GWP, The Gentle Wind Retreat, "healing instruments"
  • John Miller, John "Tubby" Miller, Mary Miller, Mary "Moe" Miller

Overview History Beliefs Practices Other names Quotes More Info

           

History

Late 1970s.

  • Founded by John Miller with help from Claudia Panuthos (aka Mary Miller, aka Mary Carreiro).

Early 1980s.

  • Expanded to include a second level of followers (employees), when it was incorporated as a nonprofit organisation.

November 2003.

  • First listing of Gentle Wind Project by New Zealand Cult List.

Situation early 2004.

  • Seminars have now been held in various countries around the world, with the "healing instruments" supposedly being used in many other countries, particularly very poor countries.
  • Among the original followers from the mid-to-late 1980s, there are reported to be approximately fifteen who have been completely committed, to the exclusion of most other relationships, working full time for the GW leaders over a period of twenty years. These roughly 15 followers make up the two top tiers of leadership.
  • There are possibly another 60-100 serious instrument keepers, while all instrument keepers could number a few thousand people.

February 2004.

  • Officially launched in New Zealand by Mary Miller, with the NZ contact person Grace Maiden. (Although there is some thought that GWP was here in a small capacity before this time.)
  • Mary Miller interviewed by Alison Mau on Breakfast show on TV One.
  • Shortly after that launch our original GWP listing (a bit shorter than the present listing) resulted in that particular page (but strangely, not the site) being included on the GWP web site in a list of targets (since removed) for legal action. Intimidation is a classic cult trait. We note that their web site has plenty of information available which makes their beliefs and many of their practices (not to mention the ridiculous price of their healing instruments!) quite clear.

1 April 2004.

  • We see that New Zealand (but not specifically this site or the page with the GWP listing) is once again mentioned as a target for legal action. (Could it be they're doing a bit of seasonal joking?) It seems the NZ Cult List has rather more noble intentions than the Gentle Wind Project and we hereby request that Valued Readers do not send money for legal expenses. (The wording of GWP's request is for donations to a legal defense fund – something that we presume won't be required since no one is legally attacking them. What will they use the money for?)

May 2004.

  • GWP includes the name of the current NZ Cult List editor in their legal rambling (PDF, 214KB). We completely fail to see the point of that move, other than to encourage us to further explain why we need to include them in the NZ Cult List.
  • GWP starts sending letters to its intended legal victims in the United States and the UK (but strangely not New Zealand), rather ruining anything left of their "gentle" image. According to the law suit, "Gentle Wind’s revenues have dropped substantially since the Count IV Defendants began making their fraudulent misrepresentations." (Claim 162.)
  • The California-based Special Investigations Agency launches an investigation into the Gentle Wind Project's activities.
  • The New Zealand Cult List editor is assured (in a letter dated 23 April 2004) that "... the New Zealand Department of Corrections is not involved in the purchase, testing, or in any other form, utilisation, of healing instruments such as marketed by the Gentle Wind Project." In other words, GWP is not using its healing instruments in New Zealand prisons in any sort of official capacity.

June 2004.

  • The Special Investigations Agency reports: A preliminary investigation reveals that there are serious financial improprieties within the so called "Non Profit" organization of the Gentle Wind Project.
  • Rumours circulate that the television company ABC in the United States wants to do a full investigation of GWP.
  • GWP's lawyers officially serve legal papers to the editor of the New Zealand Cult List, using up several trees in the process judging by the amount of paper involved. The editor notes that New Zealand is not the 51st state of the USA, so GWP's actions are really only so much hot air as far as the New Zealand Cult List is concerned. The editor also notes that it's probably quite improper – even in the most uncivilised parts of the United States – to sue people without first sending that person a cease and desist letter. Ha!

September 2004.

  • The New Zealand Cult List launches its Closeup on Gentle Wind Project).
  • Gentle Wind Project in the USA wants their local court to declare the editor of the New Zealand Cult List in default of their previous legal claims against him. The editor suggests that a court on Mars would probably have just as much jurisdiction over New Zealand citizens as the foreign court they are going through. He asks: How many tens of thousands of dollars of donations have been wasted by their action? Update: It turns out to be quite a few – their 2003-2004 tax return showed legal fees in excess of US$110,000 (NZ$161,000+), and that's only part way through the case.

October 2004.

  • The editor of the New Zealand Cult List continues to be sent an occasional parcel of American pulped vegetable matter. The editor wonders aloud if someone could suggest to lawyer-type people in the United States that they use stamps on their envelopes rather than using franked envelopes – then at least local stamp collectors can be kept happy and maybe all those trees won't have been pulped in vain. The editor also begins to consider the possibility that the real danger Gentle Wind poses is not to New Zealanders but to American trees.
  • The Special Investigations Agency reports: "It has been difficult for us to verify many of the endorsements which the Gentle Wind Projects displays on their site. The organizations are not familiar with the Gentle Wind Project, and do not know where the endorsement came from."
  • According to the Special Investigations Agency web site, Mary Miller tells a GWP seminar that "she was considering filing legal action against SIA to silence the criticism of her organization."

November 2004.

  • The Gentle Wind Project continues in their attempts to con the unsuspecting and undiscerning, releasing another of their fake "healing instruments".
  • Worldwide product recall announced for all "healing instruments" manufactured by Gentle Wind Project. These "healing instruments" apparently do not meet the specifications of the original designers and may cause harmful side-effects.

December 2004.

  • In answer to the September request to have Default Judgment against the editor on 12 December the American court issued an order "reserving ruling on the motion until resolution of other pending motions." In other words, they're leaving it until last.

2005.

  • Pretty quiet in New Zealand regarding GWP.

January 2006.

  • Senior United States District Judge Gene Carter makes judgment for the defendants Jim Bergin and Judy Garvey, "granting defendants’ motion for summary judgment on RICO Claim (Count I)". Count II has already been dismissed and because the Federal court doesn't have any independant reason for jurisdiction on the other counts, III through VII (they arise from alleged violations of state law), they have also been dismissed.
  • Senior United States District Judge Gene Carter makes judgment for the Cult List editor (PDF), dismissing Count I on the basis that the editor couldn't have been racketeering with the other defendants since the RICO (racketeering) charge against the other defendants was already dismissed. Count II didn't apply to the editor and for consistency counts III through VII have also been dismissed.
  • Gentle Wind Project reach deeper into the pockets of their poor deluded supporters and refile a whole bunch of stuff in a State court. How wonderful to be a lawyer in the United States. The editor presumes there aren't many greenie lawyers over there, going by how much paper they use. How unfortunate to be a tree in the United States.

June/July 2006.

  • The Maine Attorney General's Office has filed a lawsuit against the Gentle Wind Project. According to WMTW:
  • The attorney general's office accused the group of falsely claiming that their products had healing qualities and of considering the income from their sale as charitable donations rather than sales proceeds.

    Prosecutors want the Gentle Wind Project to liquidate its assets, pay the state's legal fees and refund anyone who bought items between 2000 and the present.

    The lawsuit specifically mentions (on pages 15, 17, and 28) the ridiculous GWP claim that there is no placebo effect in the performance of the healing instruments as being something GWP is answerable for (apparently to the tune of US$10,000 for that claim alone, if found guilty). For example, Exhibit E (page 15 of the filing) quotes the Code of Ethics and Compassion from the GWP web site:

    There is no placebo effect in the performance of these instruments. None.

    To be found innocent of that charge, GWP will presumably be required to present results of scientific testing that shows the placebo effect has absolutely been ruled out. Such scientific testing is something they simply haven't done, and is almost certainly not even possible.

    Andrew Oh-Willeke, an attorney who writes a blog under the name Wash Park Prophet, has written a detailed analysis of what the attorney general's case means for the Gentle Wind Project, and what it will mean for future cases against them – for example "nothing prevents the attorney general from bringing criminal charges against the leaders after this case is concluded, or parallel to it."

    The Special Investigations Agency (in the USA) prepared a case they submitted to the Attorney General's Office, and have written a summary of events from their own perspective.

August 2006.

  • Gentle Wind Blown Away! Gentle Wind Project has settled with the Maine Attorney General's Office over the attorney general's law suit. A Portland Press Herald article sums up the consent decree quite nicely (emphasis added):

    In a consent decree filed in York County Superior Court last week, the directors of the Gentle Wind Project admitted that they made false claims about their products, which they said could cure anything from alcoholism to paralysis. They admitted making false claims on their Web site, at public appearances and in written literature that the instruments had been scientifically proven to be effective.

    Board members also admitted that they breached their fiduciary duty as officers of a charity by using donations for the purchase and upkeep of houses purchased in their own names and for other illegal transactions.

    And, indeed, the first page of the Consent Decree and Order (PDF, 1.24MB) makes it quite clear that Gentle Wind and its board have agreed to its contents:

    ... all parties having consented to the entry of this Consent Decree and Order without trial or adjudication of any issue of fact or law ...

    Main points included in the Consent Decree and Order:

    Findings

    • Defendants Mary E Miller and John D Miller made unsubstantiated claims (both express and implied) about the health benefits of the healing instruments.
    • Defendants represented (both expressly and implied) the healing instruments as having been scientifically tested and proven to be effective.
    • Carol R Miller and Pamela Ranheim breached their fiduciary duties as directors of GWP.
    • Mary E Miller beached her fiduciary duty as the president of GWP.
    • Shelbourne Miller breached her fiduciary duty as the treasurer of GWP.
    • All defendants breached their fiduciary duties as directors of officers of GWP (in several other ways).

    Injunctions

    • The Defendants (and just about anyone who has ever worked with them, including their attorneys) are banned from having anything to do with making, advertising, selling etc any healing instruments in Maine if they make any claims including that the instruments:
      • Heal a person's "etheric" structure.
      • Solve most of humanity's problems, help Alzheimer's patients, heal 50% of alcoholics and drug addicts, reduce chronic pain.
      • Are effective in hospitals.
      • Have been tested in blind and double blind studies, using the highest research standards, and that the results have been duplicated by others.
      • Have no placebo effect in their performance.
    • The same list of GWP Defendants and just about everyone who has ever worked with them are banned from using or selling any property owned by GWP. (It's all going to be sold.)
    • They are also banned from ever leading a non-profit corporation in Maine, and banned from ever using the name Gentle Wind Project (or similar) in Maine.

    Civil Penalties and Costs

    • Mary E Miller and John D Miller to pay US$20,000 (total) for violations of the Unfair Trade Practices Act.
    • All the defendants to pay US$30,000 (total) towards the Attorney General's investigation and legal costs

    Liquidation and Dissolution of GWP

    • John C Turner appointed as liquidating receiver for GWP, and shall wind up affairs for GWP.
    • GWP has 30 days to vacate any GWP premises and Defendants will cooperate fully with receiver to sell "any property located outside the State of Maine to a bona fide buyer as determined by the receiver."
    • After payment of costs (including compensation for the receiver) all GWP assets will be handed over to the Attorney General.
    • GWP will be dissolved.

    Restitution

    • The Attorney General will refund consumers who bought a GWP healing instrument since 2003 – offer valid for six months.
    • After that, AG will pay restitution to those consumers eligible for it.
    • Any balance will be given to a Maine charity which assists those with mental health disabilities.

    Retention of Jurisdiction

    • If changes are required at a later date – not a problem.
    • Any (and each) violation of the Consent Decree and Order will be treated as a separate contempt of it.

    Effective Date

    • 9 August 2006.

    Signed

    • Carolyn A Silby – Assistant Attorney General.
    • Mary Ann Hale – Defendant (listed as Maryanne Hale, President, The Gentle Wind Project).
    • Mary E Miller – Defendant.
    • John D Miller – Defendant.
    • Shelbourne Miller – Defendant.
    • Carol R Miller – Defendant.
    • Joan G Carreiro – Defendant.
    • Pamela Ranheim – Defendant.
  • The Attorney General's case is separate to the case GWP has brought against former members and the editor of the New Zealand Cult List. According to the Portland Press Herald article:

    Mary Miller ... said the case against Bergin and Garvey will go forward, however.

    Unfortunately for her, that will be rather difficult for her to pull off, since:

    In the consent decree, Gentle Wind's board members admit the truth of most of the statements they call defamatory in their lawsuit, [defamation lawsuit defendants' lawyer] Crouter said. There is also a question whether a court-appointed receiver would allow the organization to spend assets on legal fees.

    The group's lawyer, Daniel Rosenthal of Verrill Dana, has filed a motion asking permission to withdraw from the defamation case.

    If the request for GWP's lawyer to withdraw is granted, the receiver (acting on behalf of the State of Maine) would need to retain a new lawyer, who would be pressing a case with very little substance left, after the admissions of the board. So the receiver would be VERY unlikely to agree to that.

  • While Gentle Wind Project is now illegal in Maine, USA, Mary Miller has stated that it will continue in the other 49 states and around the world. From the Portland Press Herald article:

    Mary Miller ... said the organization would continue to distribute its products outside of Maine.

    "We have a very large group of volunteers all around the world," she said.

    Assistant Attorney General Carolyn Silsby, who signed the agreement for the state, said Maine authorities can only control the group's activities in Maine. But she said by signing the consent decree, the group gives up all of its assets anywhere in the country, including a house in Durham, N.H., listed for sale at more than $1 million.

    "We would love to see Gentle Wind stop making their claims everywhere, but we can only enforce the laws of the state of Maine," she said.

  • The Portland Press Herald article finishes:

    Crouter said Gentle Wind will now have trouble proving that Bergin and Garvey are responsible for its problems.

    "They claim that Jim and Judy damaged their business, leading to a drop in their donations," he said. "Now we see the Gentle Wind Project has admitted that claims about the healing instruments are false. The damage to their reputation was caused by their own misrepresentations. We believe the defamation claims should be dismissed."

    Of course, that would also apply to the editor of the New Zealand Cult List and the List's explanation of the healing instruments possibly having a small effect by means of the placebo effect – if they actually have any effect at all. (The instruments may not be marketed in Maine with any claim that there is no placebo effect in their performance.)

  • The law firm representing the Gentle Wind Project has been granted permission to withdraw from the law suit, saying "The grounds in support of this Motion are that the clients deliberately disregarded an agreement with, or obligation to, the lawyer as to expenses or fees". In other words, they haven't been paid. The law suit will continue with the plaintiffs (the GWP board) representing themselves.

November 2006.

  • GWP has lodged a stipulation for dismissal with the Maine Court, dated 8 November 2006. It's short and to the point (although worded in American court language).

    Plaintiffs The Gentle Wind Project, Mary Miller, Carol Miller, John Miller, Shelbourne Miller, Joan Carreiro and Pam Ranheim, and Defendants James Bergin and Judy Garvey hereby stipulate to the dismissal of all claims and counterclaims asserted in this case, including plaintiff's claims against Defendant Ian Mander, with prejudice, and without costs or attorneys' fees to any party.

    This means that Ian Mander of the New Zealand Cult List is no longer being sued by an extreme New Age cult/scam group in the United States. The "with prejudice" means that they can't refile the claims, so they can't sue again.

May 2007.

  • GWP has made an appearance in Nevada, USA, where a GWP follower is a teacher in a middle school in Sparks (near Reno). Story at KoloTV.

    The Gentle Wind Project has already been shut down in at least two states, including Hawaii and Maine, as a result of lawsuits filed by their Attorney Generals.

    Police want to warn people this group is out there and to beware. Before you buy any "healing" type products, or become a member of any groups, be sure to do a little research...and if something doesn't seem right, call the police.

    (I believe that should be "Attorneys General".)

May 2010.

  • Caught in the Act of Manipulating: The Rise and Fall of a Cult and Its Leaders, a book review by former GWP member Jim Bergin has been posted on Cult News, regarding the 451 page Caught in the Act of Helping: How a government official destroyed 23 years of effort aimed at producing revolutionary, new stress relief technology by Mary Miller.

Present.

  • Written submissions for this listing are still being accepted. Please see the Contact page. We note that to date no submissions for the content of this web site, and no cease and desist orders, were ever received from the Gentle Wind Project or anyone representing them (legally or otherwise).
 
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