Scientology’s drug rehab center in the Atlanta area, Narconon Georgia, has cut a deal with county and state officials, and in return for surrendering its license and shutting down an operation that was already on life support, the facility escapes prosecution on credit card fraud and insurance fraud that was said to be in the millions of dollars.
But Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter tells us that doesn’t mean he’s given up on prosecuting individuals.
“Our investigation is ongoing. If we find individuals were engaged in criminal conduct, we will prosecute them,” he told us today by telephone.
In the spring, records turned up by the Atlanta media showed what appeared to be a clear case of intentional insurance fraud of nearly $3 million — and that was before local and state law enforcement officials raided the facility in April, seizing thousands of pages of evidence and a rental truck full of computer equipment.
There’s also big Narconon news coming out of Oklahoma today: Jeanne LeFlore of the McAlester News-Capital is reporting that Pittsburg County Associate District Judge James Bland has ordered Scientology’s flagship drug rehab facility, Narconon Arrowhead, to turn over evidence of employee use of illegal drugs and alcohol for the years 2004 to 2010 in the lawsuit brought by the family of a Narconon patient who is in a vegetative state after a 2008 drug overdose, Heather Landmeier.
But first, we have more detail from Georgia, thanks to our colleague Pete Combs at WSB Radio. Pete sent over a statement put out today by Narconon Georgia’s attorney, Brian McEvoy…
Narconon Georgia and Gwinett County DA reach agreement
Narconon Georgia is pleased to have reached a Non-Prosecution Agreement with Gwinnett County District Attorney and the Georgia Insurance Commissioner.
The agreement notes that Narconon Georgia conducted a thorough internal investigation regarding alleged, inadvertent over-billing, that Narconon Georgia promptly and thoroughly reported its findings to the State, and that Narconon Georgia cooperated in the State’s investigation of this matter. The State has agreed not to prosecute for any alleged offense or violation under any statute or administrative regulation of the State of Georgia, and Narconon Georgia has agreed to comply with all of its obligations contained in the Agreement.
As a public service, Narconon Georgia will continue and extend its effective community outreach programs in Georgia for at least six months. These same Narconon programs have reached tens of thousands of students and adults in 50 nations worldwide. The Narconon drug education program has been shown to be an effective deterrent to adolescent drug abuse.
Founded in 1966 by an Arizona State Prison inmate, Narconon has continued to expand serving addicts and their families in __ centers in 50 countries.
For more information contact Narconon International at: or visit the website: www.narconon.org
-Brian F. McEvoy
Counsel for Narconon Georgia
When we talked to District Attorney Danny Porter, we told him we didn’t realize he could have charged the business of Narconon Georgia itself.“Under Georgia law, you can charge a corporation,” he told us. “I have agreed not to prosecute Narconon Georgia as a corporation. I have not agreed not to prosecute individuals.
“In a sense, it puts them out of business, but it doesn’t really change the way we’re proceeding with our investigation,” he says.
Luke Catton said he was still surprised to hear about the deal in Georgia. Catton at one time was president of Scientology’s flagship drug rehab center in eastern Oklahoma, Narconon Arrowhead. He lives in the Atlanta area and has been following developments closely at both the Oklahoma and Georgia facilities, which have each experienced patient deaths and are facing civil lawsuits over accusations of fraud.
Catton tells us that Narconon Georgia had been running on fumes since the raid. “They haven’t had any students there in months. It’s just been a skeleton crew going through files and folders,” he said.
“In their statement, they’re still trying to make it sound like there’s no wrongdoing. I think they’ll try to reopen under a new license, which they can do in a year,” he says. “I don’t think this makes them go away forever. I think this is PR.”
Meanwhile, in Oklahoma, on hand for Judge Bland’s decision was Robert Murphy, whose daughter Stacy died of a drug overdose at Narconon Arrowhead in July 2012, the third patient death at the center in a nine month period. Her death inspired the state to pass a new law that would lead to tighter regulations of Scientology’s drug rehab network. We asked Murphy what he thought of today’s decision.
“It’s a good thing for the Landmeiers, it’s a good thing for everyone. I was impressed with the judge,” he said. “I’m glad to see they have to produce the documents. It’s a positive step toward exposing how dangerous that place really is.”
Luke Catton, who was president during some of the period those documents will cover, said he knows the information should be damning.
“People think Narconon Georgia is the worst. But I had the same experiences in Oklahoma. There was widespread drug use and sexual misconduct between employees and trainees — trainees have just graduated from the rehab program themselves, and they’re getting $50 a week. The staff preyed on the trainees, and the trainees preyed on the students.”
LeFlore reported that Narconon Arrowhead’s attorney, Bill Pettigrew, told Judge Bland that he would turn over the documents in 15 days.
Narconon Arrowhead is facing more than ten additional lawsuits — one brought by Murphy over the death of his daughter — and they’re all being handled by former prosecutor Gary Richardson. We asked him if today’s decision by Judge Bland will benefit his clients.
“Oh yeah, you bet,” Richardson told us. “I of course agree with the court’s ruling, and we anticipate when we file similar motions, that we will get similar ruling. So that’s good news.”
UPDATE: Here’s the agreement between Narconon Georgia and the county and state…
Posted by Tony Ortega on September 25, 2013 at 16:00
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