Families accuse Minnesota food truck of funding New Age ‘cult’ that ‘brainwashes’ members

Truck owner denies allegations and has filed defamation suit

Josh Marcus
San Francisco
Thursday 01 September 2022 01:14 BST
Family, former followers, claim food truck finances a Minnetonka cult

The Minnetonka, Minnesota-based Bad Rooster food truck’s slogan jokes that its food is “bad to the bone.” The company is now facing allegations that this slogan is literal, and the truck is being used to funnel funds to an allegedly cult-like group that tore families apart.

In July, sisters Angela Marie Hummelgard and Kelly Ring Abedi posted on Facebook accusing the truck of financing the Soulful Journey, a spiritual group that they called a “cult,” which they alleged had estranged them from their mother, whom they hadn’t spoken with in years.

“This has been our family’s heartbreaking journey over the course of nearly 15 years,” Ms Abedi wrote. “Our goal remains to inform the public of the group behind the truck so they can make informed choices about where they spend their money.”

They reached out to the truck online when Bad Rooster posted about a death in its community of workers and supporters, and the sisters were worried it was their mother, who turned out to be alive.

The sisters alleged that Bad Rooster co-owner and Soulful Journey founder Soulaire Allerai had convinced adherents of the group, as well as her more than 100,000 followers on Facebook, that she could channel spirits and would charge group members for classes and spirituality-focused trips to locations around the world.

An investigation from Minnesota news station Fox9 spoke with numerous other families who said their lives had been torn apart by the New Age group, which operates out of a wellness centre in Minnetonka that’s also listed as the address for more than a dozen associated LLCs, according to public records.

"It’s not just us, there are other families," Sarah Rangal of Michigan told the station, describing how they hadn’t heard from a “brainwashed” sister who joined the group for over a decade.

The investigation also identified 15 people who had legally changed their names since joining the group.

“The personal attacks on social media, and now in the media, are patently false and solely designed to harm Soulaire Allerai and Bad Rooster because of the tremendous success and goodwill they have earned over the years,” Stacy Bettison, a spokesperson for Ms Allerai and Bad Rooster, told The Independent in a statement. “The individuals spreading these lies are trying to find a scapegoat for their own problems.”

Ms Bettison said Soulful Journey is not a cult.

“Soulaire Allerai is not a cult leader, and she does not brainwash people,” she said, adding, “The people who take classes from Soulaire Allerai decide whether to talk to their families⸺or not.”

The spiritual leader has also spoken out about the case.

"I sit and cry and don’t understand why complete strangers jump on a bandwagon and you know nothing about what’s being said," Ms Allerari said in video on social media in July.

Those associated with the food truck business say it isn’t tied to the families making accusations against it.

"The food truck has no association to these women," Bad Rooster co-owner Soulmar Allerai, who is unrelated to Soulaire Allerai, in a July interview with the Mineapolis StarTribune. "This has been just really unfortunate. ... It’s very scary to see how much damage can be done in such a short period of time. ... I honestly don’t know where these rumors came to be."

That month, Soulaire Allerai filed a defamation suit against Angela Marie Hummelgard and Kelly Ring Abedi seeking $200,000 in damages, arguing their allegations are false, and have caused the truck to lose half its business.

The Independent has contacted Ms Abedi for comment.

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