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LEAK: Narconon’s Legal Affairs Director Admits No Scientific Basis for Advertised Success Rates

This smoking gun is particularly delicious.

This smoking gun is particularly redolent.

As smoking guns go, this one is high caliber and billowing.

Scientology’s drug rehab program, Narconon, is in serious trouble because of a series of patient deaths, government investigations, and civil lawsuits. And as we’ve pointed out numerous times, former Narconon employees and leaked documents have revealed that nearly every step of Narconon’s business model involves some sort of deception.

Now, another stunning disclosure. Former Narconon employee Eric Tenorio has turned over to the Underground Bunker a remarkable e-mail written by a Narconon International legal affairs officer who admits that “we do not have scientific evidence of” the 70 percent and higher rates of success that the rehab programs advertise.

In 2009, Tenorio was working at Narconon Freedom Treatment Center in Albion, Michigan when the facility became the subject of a Better Business Bureau complaint. As the center prepared a response to the complaint, Tenorio was one of several executives at the center who received copies of e-mails going back and forth between Freedom Center and Narconon International, the non-profit that oversees all Narconon facilities. (Narconon International in turn reports to the Association for Better Living and Education, which is staffed only by Scientology “Sea Org” officials.)

In the draft of its response to the BBB, Freedom Center’s officials referred to the 70 percent success rate that all Narconon centers advertise (some push it even higher — we’ve seen ads with claims of 90 percent success).

As we’ve pointed out before, these success rates are completely out of scale with more legitimate rehab programs, which typically advertise success rates closer to 25 percent.


Tenorio says that the Freedom Center’s draft response was shown to Claudia Arcabascio, Narconon International’s Legal Affairs Director. Here was her response (spelling mistakes in the original):

From: Claudia Arcabascio
Subject: Re: Wolverton BBB complaint and suggested response
Cc: “PRODUCTION NNI” , “John Walser A/ED NN FC”
Date: Monday, January 12, 2009, 4:36 PM


Thanks for sent me this. I don’t have a copy of the letter received from the BBB which makes difficult for me to see if the answer is appropiate.

However, I see the letter okay less than the comment of “hearsay”. It is a generality.

I cannot reach Helena today to review this. Instead, I recommend the following:

1. Correct the letter (more ARC in the letter and change the expression of “hearsay” for specifics and do not say that we have 70% success (we do not have scientific evidence of it).

2. Send a copy of the letter received from BBB to Mike Toth along with the proposed answer (corrected by you).

3. Get okay from the attorney

4. Send the letter (preferably by certified mail return receipt request). Check out this point with Mike Toth first.

If you send to Mike Toth the complete data, it should not take for him more than 10 minutes of his time.

Please let me know if you have any questions.



We have emphasized the crucial passage — the Legal Affairs Director for the entire Narconon network admitting that there is no scientific basis for 70 percent success claims.

Claudia Arcabascio

Claudia Arcabascio

Last week, we sent a message to Arcabascio asking her about this e-mail. We have not received a reply.

This is only the latest in a string of damning revelations about Narconon that have emerged through civil litigation and through former employees. Former Narconon officials Luke Catton and Eric Tenorio — both of whom were featured first in stories at the Village Voice and here at the Underground Bunker — are providing explosive testimony about Narconon’s practices.

And both will be featured Friday night in an episode of NBC’s Rock Center. We expect that they’ll be talking about the formal complaints they made to the National Association of Forensic Counselors, which resulted in the NAFC permanently revoking the counseling certificates for Narconon Arrowhead CEO Gary Smith, former Narconon Georgia executive director Mary Rieser, and numerous other Narconon employees.

Catton and Tenorio told the NAFC that the counseling certificates had been obtained fraudulently. (The NAFC has not confirmed why the certificates were revoked, only that they had been taken away.)

Losing his professional certification could not have come at a worse time for Gary Smith. Three patient deaths at the Narconon Arrowhead facility and one at Narconon Georgia have prompted investigations and lawsuits, and a series of embarrassing disclosures about how Narconon operates…

— Generic websites that don’t reveal their connection to Scientology and Narconon pretend to give impartial advice about drug rehab programs, but actually push potential clients to Narconon centers for a 10 percent bounty, typically about $3,000 per client.

— Potential clients are not told about Narconon’s connection to Scientology, or that patients will not receive individualized drug counseling, but instead will go through the same training that beginning Scientology members do.

— Potential clients are told that medical personnel are on hand, but court records show that a medical director is appointed who initially screens clients but then rarely or never sets foot in the Narconon facility.

And now, there’s evidence of the deception behind one of Narconon’s more hard to believe claims — its success rates.

Eric Tenorio

Eric Tenorio

“It illustrates that they are continuing to lie to the public,” Tenorio tells us. “They’re lying just to get more people to come to the program, because they want the money. They want to do something that will set themselves apart from other rehabilitation programs, and claiming false success rates is the way to do it.”

Tenorio says his own experience confirms that the claimed success rates are bogus. “They don’t take into account all the people who don’t finish the program,” he says. “That’s been my experience, that more people don’t finish the program, or take multiple times to finish. And I’m not basing that on only one place. I worked at four of them.”

Tomorrow, a bill that would tighten regulation over Narconon’s flagship operation in Oklahoma will be heard by a committee in that state’s legislature. On Friday night, Catton and Tenorio will appear on NBC’s Rock Center. And we’re still waiting for news of state investigations underway in Oklahoma and Georgia. We’ll do our best to keep on top of all of these developments.




Former Scientologist Jesse Prince has written a remarkable review of Lawrence Wright’s book Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, & the Prison of Belief. Prince not only explains what sets Wright’s book apart, but also gives us a fascinating look at what it was like to be interviewed for it — particularly at a time when he was fighting cancer. Give it a read and let us know what you think.



SMERSH Madness Champions Crowned!

On March 1, we announced our own take on brackets just for the fun of it. SMERSH Madness, we called it, and asked for your votes to determine who today is Scientology’s biggest nemesis — just as SMERSH was in the early 1970s (or so said L. Ron Hubbard at the time).

And here they are, the new SMERSH!

TobinChildsHubbardSMERSH[Illustration by Ellis Rosen]

Tobin and Childs should have won a Pulitzer for their amazing blockbuster 2009 series, “The Truth Rundown,” and in 2011 they followed it up with another major expose, “The Money Machine.” The first brought news of the culture of violence among Scientology’s highest ranks, the second revealed the depths of Scientology’s obsession for money. And they managed these investigations at a time when other newspapers were cutting back — they even had to deal with a name change, as the St. Petersburg Times became the Tampa Bay Times.

Here’s our full bracket to remind you how you voted. All in all, this was great fun, and we appreciate the steady voting throughout the tournament.




Posted by Tony Ortega on April 1, 2013 at 07:00


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