Manhattan cult duped women into paying fee working for free: lawsuit

New York Post/September 24, 2021

By Kathianne Boniello and Lee Brown

Two women claim they were duped into becoming unpaid servants for a secretive Manhattan cult, run by a one-time actress who had a bit part in “Slaughterhouse-Five”— and has long faced accusations of bilking her acolytes.

The Odyssey Study Group was run by Sharon Gans Horn, who died in January at age 86 and had a decades-long alleged history of siphoning cash from adoring followers to support her wealthy lifestyle, including posh homes.

Stephanie Rosenberg and Marjorie Hochman said they signed up for Horn’s Odyssey Study Group in 2005 because they believed it would “help improve their lives economically, physically and spiritually,” according to a Manhattan Supreme Court class-action lawsuit they filed against the cult and its leaders.

But instead of finding enlightenment and growth, Rosenberg and Hochman shelled out $400 monthly cash “membership fees” and slaved away as cooks, cleaners and recruiters, according to their jointly filed lawsuit.
“All they received for their labor was trauma, emotional distress and other injuries,” they charged in court papers.

“The members of the cult made [Horn] and others very rich” — with the late leader living in “an $8 million dollar condominium in the Plaza Hotel” with other “properties around the United States and in Mexico,” the suit said.

OSG “lined its pockets” on the backs of Rosenberg and Hochman, “lying to its members that it was an honor, privilege and a step to self-improvement to serve the leaders of OSG,” charge the two women.

They are seeking unspecified damages “to recover unpaid wages for many hours of labor” — as well as reimbursement of their monthly $400 membership dues “plus interest.”

Rosenberg and Hochman showed up early for Odyssey’s twice-weekly, secret meetings to set up, cook food for fellow members that they bought with their own money, stayed to clean up, and spent hours roping in new members, they alleged in the litigation.

They even acted as “personal assistants, cooks, housekeepers, drivers, and personal shoppers” for Horn, according to the legal papers.

The Odyssey Study Group was run by Sharon Gans Horn, who died in January at age 86.

The lawsuit also noted how the cult “has been alleged to have engaged in systematic physical and mental abuse, child abuse, sexual abuse, private adoptions, arranged marriages, and financial crimes.”

The two women believed if they left the group, they would be shunned, cut off from the community “that had … become his or her entire world,” the lawsuit claimed.

Rosenberg finally escaped in 2019, and Hochman got out in 2016, the lawsuit said.

The cult was co-founded by Horn and her late husband, Alex Horn, in San Francisco in the 1970s — moving to New York in the 1980s when accusations of abuse and financial misdeeds became public, the suit said.

The suit names Minnerva Taylor, Lorraine Imlay, Greg Koch and Ken Salaz as surviving leaders to whom Horn bequeathed her interest in the cult in her will. It also names Michael Horn as a co-executor of her estate.

A number listed for the Odyssey Study Group is now out of service.

A response to the lawsuit had not been filed as of Friday morning, and it was not clear if those named had attorneys for the case. Attempts to reach those named were not immediately successful Friday.

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