The leader of the Rosicrucian Order as been ousted as imperator and president of the mystic organization and is suspected of embezzling $3.5 million, a spokesman at world headquarters said this week.
Gary L. Stewart, installed in 1987 as head of the group that claims roots in ancient Egypt and about 250,000 members worldwide, left late Monday after police were summoned to enforce a restraining order, spokesman Carl La Flamm said.
A Superior Court suit had been filed against Stewart after he defied an unanimous vote by the board of directors on April 12 to remove himself as president and imperator of the Supreme Grand Lodge, a title normally held for life, La Flamm said.
Stewart was unavailable for comment.
The action to strip Stewart of his leadership came after the order's secretary-treasurer discovered that he had transferred more than $3 million between March 28 and April 5 from the Rosicrucians' account at Silicon Valley Bank, the suit said. The funds first went to a bank in Pittsburgh, then to a bank in the European republic of Andorra.
"Stewart has refused to explain his actions to the board of directors and has refused to disclose the account number of the (Andorran) account. Therefore Rosicrucian believes that Stewart has converted the funds to his own personal use," the suit said.
A hearing was scheduled for May 1 on the lawsuit, which seeks placement of the order's accounts in trust, return of the missing $3.5 million and legal costs.
The Rosicrucians Order, formally known as the Ancient Mystical Order Rosae Crucis, describes itself as a fraternity, a collective cosmic consciousness--but not a religion or sect. Its symbol is a budding rose, representing the human soul, on a cross, representing the physical state.