State agency investigating Medi-Cal fraud raided drug rehab center in March 2014
Three Compton educators — including coach of legendary football program — fired for supplying students for fake claims
Notorious Scientology front World Literacy Crusade involved, director Hanan Islam charged
By Tony Ortega
The Underground Bunker has learned that a California state agency has been investigating and methodically charging numerous Scientologists and others who were allegedly involved in a scam to defraud Medi-Cal with bogus claims at a drug rehab center in the working class Los Angeles suburb of Compton.
On October 23 charges were filed against Hanan Islam, 56, who in 2004 founded “American Health and Education Clinics,” an entity that was actually run out of the World Literacy Crusade, a well known Scientology front where she was executive director. She has pleaded not guilty to four felony counts, which include grand theft larceny, insurance fraud, Medi-Cal fraud, and failure to file a tax return.
We sent an email to Ms. Islam and left a message for her at World Literacy Crusade, but have not received a reply.
Three of Ms. Islam’s ten children were also charged with felonies. Zakiyyah Islam, 36, pleaded not guilty to charges of grand theft larceny, insurance fraud, and Medi-Cal fraud. Nimat Islam, 39, and Ronnie Islam, 25, pleaded not guilty to insurance fraud and Medi-Cal fraud.
All three were identified as counselors at the rehab clinic in online listings. Other clinic counselors charged recently in the scam include Bayon Beverly Washington, 42, and George Edward Newby III, 43, who each pleaded not guilty to insurance fraud and Medi-Cal fraud.
Those charges come more than a year after the first arrests in the investigation were made of three educators from the Compton Unified School District, who lost their jobs as a result.
Rudy Washington was principal of Chavez Continuation High School. Jesse L. Jones was principal of Centennial High School. And Keith Donerson was coach of the legendary Dons, the football team at Manuel Dominguez High School. When each were charged with Medi-Cal fraud in early October last year they were put on administrative leave, then were later fired.
According to Los Angeles County Superior Court records, the charges against Rudy Washington were either dismissed or not prosecuted, while Jones and Donerson were allowed to plead guilty to lesser charges.
The three educators allegedly supplied high school students to the clinic at the World Literacy Crusade, where Medi-Cal claims were submitted for drug rehab treatment, even though the football players and other students didn’t have addiction problems and were put through Scientology drills rather than drug counseling. The students themselves reportedly had no idea they were part of an insurance fraud scheme.
The fraudulent activity occurred between 2010 and 2013, according to Hanan Islam’s charging papers. In March 2014, the state’s Bureau of Medi-Cal Fraud and Elder Abuse, a part of the state’s Department of Justice under Attorney General Kamala Harris, raided World Literacy Crusade and seized documents, which eventually led to the arrests and criminal charges.
World Literacy Crusade was founded in 1993 by Alfreddie Johnson Jr., a Baptist minister who turned to Scientology in the wake of the L.A. riots and became one of Scientology’s most well known African-American figures. It was Johnson who was responsible for bringing musician Isaac Hayes into Scientology in the mid-1990s, and a decade later connected Nation of Islam leader Minister Louis Farrakhan with Scientology in what has become an ongoing and bizarre melding of the two groups.
Johnson not only founded World Literacy Crusade but with Hanan Islam also co-founded American Health and Education Clinics, the entity delivering the Scientology drug rehab program. Hanan Islam has worked for years with Johnson, and they are the parents of Islam’s youngest child, Ronnie, who is better known as Rizza Islam.
But even with the arrests and criminal charges against Hanan Islam, her children, the Compton educators, and other “counselors” at the clinic he co-founded, Alfreddie Johnson himself has not been arrested or charged with a crime.
We left a message for Rev. Johnson at World Literacy Crusade but did not receive a reply.
Alfreddie Johnson, Hanan Islam, and the World Literacy Crusade have a long and colorful history. In 2005, a year after the founding of American Health and Education Clinics, it was visited by a county commission concerned that children from a group home were being sent there for classes. The children had to endure a 3.5-hour round trip of travel time to get to the clinic, and what the commissioners found there appalled them. “One of the class brochures describes a drug and alcohol rehabilitation and detoxification program, but none of the resident children have those problems…Commissioners attended class with the residents and discovered that not only was the program not drug/alcohol related, but all the books, study materials and wall posters were pertaining to L. Ron Hubbard’s Scientology.” After that visit, the group home was told to stop sending children to the clinic.
“We use the Narconon program developed by L. Ron Hubbard,” World Literacy Crusade’s website stated on a now-defunct page that is preserved on the Internet Archive.
In 2007, Alfreddie Johnson was tossed out of a seat on the Lynwood City Council when more than 70 percent of voters chose to recall him (along with the mayor and two other council members) after the council had pushed a plan to level part of the town for a 70,000-seat NFL stadium. Hanan Islam had run Johnson’s election campaign.
In 2008, the Los Angeles Times reported that the World Literacy Crusade office in Compton was the scene of a near riot as it turned out that the $1,500 vouchers it was selling for Section 8 housing turned out to be fakes.
In 2012, Hanan Islam and Alfreddie Johnson were featured in a series of stories in the Tampa Bay Times which described how they flew to Florida and took over a struggling charter school, imposed Scientology teaching methods over the objections of parents and some teachers (who were fired), diverted large amounts of the school’s state money to the World Literacy Crusade, and left town after riding the charter school into the ground.
“Calling herself ‘Dr. Hanan,’ Islam…said she was a naturopathic physician with two doctorates and a master’s degree from Rochville University and the Eden Institute. Rochville is an online school the Washington Post called ‘a diploma mill.’ No university named ‘Eden Institute’ could be found by the Times,” wrote Tampa Bay Times reporter Drew Harwell, who is now with the Washington Post.
Meanwhile, back in Los Angeles, American Health and Education was taking in more money than ever in Medi-Cal claims. Its total payments in taxpayer money for 2012 topped $1 million.
Then, in the summer of 2013, all hell broke loose for drug rehabs in California as a CNN and Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR) project found widespread abuse of the Medi-Cal system. In the wake of that investigation, California regulators shut off funds to dozens of rehab networks while taking a closer look at them. One of the clinics affected was American Health and Education Clinics at the World Literacy Crusade.
CIR reported that the hiatus gave state regulators time to look into rehab operators, some of whom had criminal pasts. One of them was Hanan Islam.
“Throughout her decadelong tenure at American Health and Education Clinics, authorities seemed to take no note of her criminal history. In the mid-’90s, she had pleaded guilty to a federal charge of providing a fake name on a passport application. She also had been convicted of grand theft for forging a $29,000 check,” CIR’s Christina Jewett and Will Evans reported.
Hanan Islam and Alfreddie Johnson reacted to the cutoff of Medi-Cal money by going public. We reported at the time, in September 2013, that they tried to rally support for a trip to Sacramento to rattle legislators.
Hanan Islam wrote an appeal to drum up support for the trip that was posted to Facebook. “Two vans full of supporters will be coming. We need political muscle, our clergy reps, community activists, parents, educators and anyone else who cares about the future of our youth to show up to initiate query into why so many black agencies are being Shut down and treated as criminals prior to any wrong doing being proven?…We take our job seriously. We only exist to serve and unfortunately the 500 youth we have been servicing are suffering…Where are these babies supposed to go?”
Their appeal apparently fell on deaf ears.
Four months later, a Seattle Seahawks cornerback became a sensation after the interview he gave to Fox Sports’ Erin Andrews. Richard Sherman had made a key play blocking a pass to preserve the Seahawks’ win in the January 19 NFC Championship game, but he felt he had been disrespected by 49ers receiver Michael Crabtree. He ranted about it in a way that viewers thought he was telling off Andrews. Overnight, Sherman became the most controversial athlete in the country — a supremely talented and intelligent player who some were calling a “thug” for his behavior, which enraged him.
In the media storm that resulted from the incident, Sherman’s former high school coach, Keith Donerson, calmly responded to a wave of interview requests.
Donerson had started coaching at Manuel Dominguez High School as an assistant in 1986. It was perhaps inevitable that he would eventually become head coach at the legendary football program, because the man who had built up the program to a national powerhouse was Keith’s father, Willie Donerson. The elder Donerson retired after winning a CIF state championship in 1996, and his son took over. But then in 2001 Willie came back and the father-son duo coached together until 2005, when Willie retired again. Sherman was a player on the 2005 father-son coached team.
When the controversy over Sherman’s interview erupted, Keith Donerson had led the Dons to another first place finish, followed by a second-round loss in CIF regional playoffs. But now all anyone wanted to talk about was Sherman and his Fox interview. “This is crazy,” Donerson told the Orange County Register. “I can’t believe it’s gotten this big.”
Two months later, the World Literacy Crusade was raided. At American Health and Education Clinics, Keith Donerson was listed as a counselor, and he is registered online with a National Provider Identifier number, which is used for making insurance claims.
On October 14, 2014 the Los Angeles Times ran a brief item which said that Donerson had been placed on administrative leave by the school. No reason was given. At the time Donerson was put on leave, the Dons had played six games of their 10-game regular schedule, with a 4-2 record. The Times never followed up on why Donerson was put on leave, and didn’t report later that Donerson was fired in January. On May 8, he pleaded guilty to a conflict of interest charge, and the count of Medi-Cal fraud was dismissed.
On August 10, 2015, the IRS revoked the tax exempt status of the World Literacy Crusade for failing to submit tax forms for three consecutive years.
Two months later, state agents began arresting and charging the counselors and other officials at Hanan Islam’s clinic.
One legal observer tells us the state appears to be building its case from the ground up, arresting peripheral or lower-level participants and hoping that they’ll cooperate to go after the bigger fish. Now, Hanan Islam, co-founder of the clinic, is facing four serious felonies.
But Rev. Alfreddie Johnson, the flashy Scientology figure and friend to Tom Cruise and Louis Farrakhan, has been unaffected. He has not been arrested or charged.
Scientology’s drug rehab network, Narconon, has been mired in controversy over the last four years following several patient deaths and dozens of lawsuits resulting from those deaths, as well as for Narconon’s deceptive business practices. Founded in 1966 by an Arizona prison inmate, Narconon is a network of rehab centers that are licensed through Scientology’s Association for Better Living and Education (ABLE).
Like at Hanan Islam’s clinic, Scientology’s Narconon centers promise drug addiction counseling but actually deliver something else — Scientology courses that are identical to what church members experience. We have reported on several attorneys around the country, such as Indiana’s Jonathan Little, who have seized on that essential deception in Narconon advertising and the contracts it asks patients to sign.
But this is the first time that we’ve seen criminal charges leveled at Scientologists for that deceptive practice. The difference this time is that Hanan Islam’s clinic was heavily involved in insurance claims paid with taxpayer money.
World Literacy Crusade claimed to have “Narconon-trained’ staff to deliver the rehab program, which, like in Scientology’s clinics, meant that patients are put through a grueling regimen, with up to five hours spent in a sauna each day for a month, and increasing doses of vitamins, up to 5,000 mg of niacin each day. Like other Narconon clinics, WLC claimed an unrealistic success rate — 78 percent — when legitimate rehabs say a good rate is about 25 percent.
Except for the references to L. Ron Hubbard buried on their website, World Literacy Crusade, like other Scientology fronts, was not always open about its connections to the church.
In this video, posted to YouTube in 2012, Hanan Islam describes the drug rehab program. Many of the Hubbard buzzwords are there, such as “restimulate” and “cognitions.” But she never actually uses the words Scientology or Narconon.
But Narconon experts tell us that despite Islam’s careful avoidance of those words, there’s little doubt that she was using Narconon materials and processes with Scientology’s knowledge and approval.
“Narconon wants nothing to do with government access to its records, so they never apply for grants or accept government funds or Medicaid for payment,” one expert Narconon researcher tells us. “But I have no doubt that these programs were contracted with Narconon and approved by ABLE to apply the Narconon ‘tech,’ and to pay a 10 percent cut of the fees.”
We see nothing in the charging papers for Hanan Islam and her clinic co-workers that would suggest that the state’s investigation will reach into Scientology itself or its Narconon program. But we’ve left a message with Deputy Attorney General Vincent N. Bonotto, who is handling the case at this point, and we’ll update this post if we hear from him.
We didn’t get a chance to include photos in our book, so we’ve posted them at a dedicated page. Reader Sookie put together a complete index and we’re hosting it here on the website. Copies of the paperback version of ‘The Unbreakable Miss Lovely’ are on sale at Amazon. The Kindle edition is also available, and shipping instantly.
Our book tour is concluded for now. (But you can re-experience it through this nifty interactive map!) We’ll let you know about future appearances. Previous events: Santa Barbara (5/16), Hollywood (5/17), Orange County (5/17), San Diego (5/20), San Francisco (5/22), New York (6/11), Chicago (6/20), Toronto (6/22), Clearwater (6/28), Washington DC (7/12), Hartford (7/14), Denver (7/17), Dallas (7/20), Houston (7/22), San Antonio (7/24), Austin (7/25), Paris (7/29), London (8/4), Boston (8/24), Phoenix (9/15), Cleveland (9/23), Minneapolis (9/24), Portland (9/27), Seattle (9/28), Vancouver BC (9/29), Sydney (10/23), Melbourne (10/25), Adelaide (10/28), Perth (10/30)
Posted by Tony Ortega on December 17, 2015 at 07:00
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