He Told His Followers He Was God All So He Could Rape Teen Girls

In the 1940s, Theodore Rinaldo could've been considered your average Catholic kid living in New York. But his life took a dark turn in 1969, when he moved to Seattle to start "The Group," a drug cult who believed Rinaldo was God. Soon after he started Eden Farms, a compound where he abused his followers in vile ways. From threats to sexual assault of minors, the abusive cult leaders of The Group violated several people. 

What happened to the cult called The Group? After an intrepid journalist uncovered what was really happening at the compound, he revealed Theodore Rinaldo's cult crime. Facts about the Group shook the surrounding community. The truth of what really happened at Eden Farms put a sick man behind bars. Thankfully it is not a cult still active today, as Rinaldo was put behind bars in 1979.


  • He Established An 80 Acre Farm That Was Pretty Sketchy

    In 1974, Rinaldo opened Ellogo's farm in Washington, and referred to his religious cult as Eden Farms. In the summer of that year, neighbors in Snohomish, Washington noticed 20 to 30 tents built on the property of Eden Farms. Neighbors saw upward of 50 people working the fields of Eden Farms doing various field tasks. While cult followers were permitted to sell fruits and vegetables at stands on the side of the road, they were not allowed to discuss their religion. The secrecy that seemed to hover around Eden Farms continued to increase the scrutiny of neighbors and other leaders in the Snohomish, Washington community.

    One person who grew up on the farm said children were also forced to work in the field, and if you refused, you faced severe punishment.

     

  • Rinaldo Forced People To Pledge Allegiance To Him And Had Sex With Underage Girls

    Rinaldo used his power and influence to force people to pledge allegiance to him. He also had inappropriate and illegal sexual relationships with underage girls. He also threatened to physically harm people who said they wanted to leave, and crippled people financially so even if they could escape, they couldn't get very far. He told the group he was Michael the Archangel, and he planned to take them to Alabama to ride out the end of the world.

  • He Tricked The Locals Into Believing He Wasn't Building A Cult By Hosting Bingo Events

    He Tricked The Locals Into Believing He Wasn't Building A Cult By Hosting Bingo Events
    Photo: Average Jane / flickr / CC-BY 2.0

    By the late '70s, Rinaldo was very much involved in the local community. He joined a local Masonic Lodge, acted as campaign manager for a Republican candidate for the Snohomish County Sheriff, and purchased a building, which later became the location for the Snohomish Chamber of Commerce. He even started hosting a local bingo event, just like "legitimate" church organizations.

  • The Court Found That Rinaldo Was A Sexual Psychopath

    Rinaldo was convicted for his sex crimes, and as a result, the state of Washington evaluated whether he was a "sexual psychopath." This distinction allows offenders who are guilty to serve a portion of their sentence in a therapy program. Rinaldo's lawyers moved for this, and successfully were recognized by the court. 

    As a result, Rinaldo spent time in a treatment center for sexual psychopaths. The state ultimately concluded he was not open to rehabilitation and instead he received a designation in a general population prison.

  • Rinaldo Intimidated Witnesses In His First Trial

    Rinaldo Intimidated Witnesses In His First Trial
    Photo: 826 PARANORMAL / flickr / CC-BY 2.0

    On July 12, 1979, police arrested Rinaldo. He was charged with statutory rape, indecent liberties, assault, coercion and intimidating a witness. A jury convicted Rinaldo of some of the offenses, which inspired others to come forward. Almost a year after Rinaldo's arrest, witnesses indicated they lied to police and prosecutors regarding Rinaldo's practices on Eden Farms. The witnesses advised that Rinaldo had threatened them if they told the truth.

    Because of the new witness testimony, prosecutors also charged the cult leader with perjury, intimidating witnesses, tampering with witnesses and statutory rape.

  • Rinaldo Told People He Was God To Get Money For His Compound

    In Seattle,  Rinaldo started to develop a reputation for being a passionate and convincing preacher. The '60s counterculture helped attract a broad range of people to Rinaldo's "services." Followers of Rinaldo called themselves "The Group," and many reported he referred to himself (and others in The Group) as sons of God. By early 1970, Rinaldo started taking donations, so that he could buy land and legitimize the religious group status of The Group, and his followers donated thousands of dollars. By this time, the conman preacher was well on his way to becoming a cult leader.