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Reporter Sues Scientology’s Drug Rehab Facility, Alleges She Witnessed Sex for Drugs

Rachel Petersen

Rachel Petersen

As we mentioned this morning, yet another lawsuit was filed yesterday against Narconon Arrowhead, Scientology’s flagship drug rehab facility in eastern Oklahoma which was featured last night on NBC’s Rock Center for its many controversies.

We have the complaint now, which we’ve posted below, and we’ll run down some of the interesting details. This makes the eleventh lawsuit filed recently against Narconon Arrowhead, but what makes this one somewhat unique is that it was filed by a local newspaper reporter who says she was harmed when she went through the program in 2009 and 2010.

And like others, she says she saw employees of Narconon trading drugs for sex.

Rachel Petersen went to Narconon Arrowhead to treat a drug addiction in November, 2009.

Like others, she was referred to the rehab center by a generic website that touted Narconon’s 70 percent success rate. As we’ve previously reported, Narconon’s internal documents and its former employees say those success claims are completely bogus.

And so are claims made to patients about the kind of treatment they’re going to get — Petersen alleges that she was told she “would be treated by qualified counselors and medical personnel, all of which were false.”

She was quoted a discounted price of $27,500 for her treatment and paid $17,500 up front, with her insurance company paying the balance of $10,000.

But Petersen says she was told that her insurance company had refused to pay, so she was convinced to pay the balance herself. Later, she found out that the insurance company had paid some portion of the $10,000.

(This reminds us of the claims that were made against the Narconon facility in Atlanta, which is now under a criminal investigation for insurance fraud.)

Petersen also alleges that she witnessed employees “selling medications to the patients in exchange for money, sex or other trade, similar to an inhumane third world country.”

Finally, after her treatment, Petersen was also convinced to pay $7,000 to then be trained as a counselor.

She’s suing for breach of contract and civil conspiracy, and her lawsuit says she will be asking for more than $45,000 in actual damages and more than $75,000 in punitive damages.

Petersen is a reporter for the McAlester News-Capital, a local newspaper that has been aggressively covering the controversies at the Narconon facility. And in fact, last year, Petersen herself wrote about a lawsuit filed after the April 2012 death of patient Hillary Holten.

We asked Petersen’s attorney Gary Richardson about that. He tells us that Petersen had notified her bosses at the newspaper that she had been a patient at the facility. That the paper still allowed her to write about the rehab center as a former patient is a curious decision in journalistic terms, but it shouldn’t affect her lawsuit.

We asked Richardson about the sex-for-drugs claims that have appeared in more than one of the suits he’s filed lately — we wondered how important those claims were to the cases and how difficult it would be to prove those allegations.

“That’s going to be so easy,” Richardson says. He said he was confident that his clients will be able to prove their claims because Narconon has such a track record of deception.

“They lie about their success rates. They lie about what they do,” he says. “If you tell people that we’re going to remove any desire for drugs and we have 70 percent success, people will sell the farm to get that.” But taking advantage of those people, he adds, is reprehensible.

Here’s the complaint itself…

Rachel Petersen vs Narconon


Posted by Tony Ortega on April 6, 2013 at 14:45


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  • I doubt this will be the last one filed

    • 10oriocookies

      Count me and Luke in the list.

  • Trustmeonthis

    Go, Rachel Petersen, go!

  • Bonanza!

  • 1subgenius


  • mirele

    I thought Scientology had a thing about journalists…as in “merchants of chaos.”

    I’d also question the wisdom of having a journalist report on her own rehab. A lot.

    • 1subgenius

      There’s many spins CoS can put on that. One of which is that it was all a set up for a story and lawsuit.

      • mirele

        Good point, very good point. But it still doesn’t get Scn out from underneath the cheating they did (bill insurance AND patient? scummy, very scummy.)

        • 1subgenius

          Much shit will be thrown on walls in this one.

      • Midwest Mom

        Was she a reporter at the time of her stay at Narconon? I don’t have a problem about her writing about her own experiences and I suspect that her employer will have another reporter covering the lawsuit for an objective voice.

        Also, her insurance company has a record of their payment to the facility and she has records of her payments, so there is valid evidence of deception by Narconon. I’ll bet that Narconon Arrowhead has been contacting former rehab participants with the intent to dissuade them from speaking out or cooperating with the prosecution.

        • MarionDee

          If she didn’t write memoir-ish pieces, but did pure reporting, I wonder how “full disclosure” affects this, if she used that device. It usually works as “reader/viewer beware” and (I think) would protect her against accusations of writing with an agenda or prejudice.

          • Midwest Mom


    • Douglas D. Douglas

      It will be problematic, but not a deal-buster, I would think. CoS will do much hand wringing and tsking over the evil, evil journalist. The newspaper is a real survivor– a small-town paper with a regional base, that’s been around since 1896.

  • The Dakini

    My favorite part of the legal complant is the very last line…

  • dagobarbz

    I have long suspected that the 70% success rate really refers to clients steered into Scientology…

  • BosonStark

    The, was told her insurance didn’t pay the $10,000, and she had to — but they did — sounds like a clincher to me.

    • 1subgenius

      “Mistakes are made.”

  • Sherbet

    I can’t imagine what narconon/scientology’s legal strategy will be with all the cases piling up against them. Do they spend time, money, and resources to go to court, hoping to win with their usual loophole-seeking, plaintiff-smearing tactics? Or do they rustle up the money to settle all out of court? Or will the legal advice be to play good citizen and shut down the facilities in question, while having no intention of abandoning the narconon cash cow model elsewhere? It will be interesting to watch these law suits play out.

    • Midwest Mom

      I think they’ll proceed as usual through attacks of character.

      • Observer

        Yep, I agree. Scientology is essentially the world’s biggest, most evil one-trick pony.

        • RMycroft

          rachelpeterson[dot]org slander site coming online in 3, 2, 1…

          (The domain is still unregistered.)

          • Gary Lee-Nova

            I wondered about that. Wouldn’t it be legally transgressive to do such a thing during court proceedings?

            Not that I think that the cult wouldn’t be stupid enough to do it.

            • RMycroft

              Site? What site? Oh, THAT site. Well, you see the site was by some completely different group with absolutely no connection to Narconon Arrowhead. (Yes, they are that stupid.)

            • Observer

              After all these years and all their online floof goofing they *still* haven’t learned that Anonymous owns the internet.

            • Bella Legosi

              shhhhh! Don’t spoil the surprise! lol

            • Observer

              They won’t learn. They still think LRH fail tech “applied exactly correctly” (as the old buffoon liked to say) will defeat anyone.

            • Bella Legosi

              Yeah and that ignorance is going to be paid back in spades! There are just too many of us out there now that knows their tactics. For every lie and slader there is a brick being taken out of Co$ foundation of lies. That is until there is nothing left to hold up the monumental fraud that is Dianetics and Scientology.

            • SP ‘Onage

              They were stupid enough to splice and alter surveillance video’s in the “Clearwater, Florida against critics trial.” I just finished watching that on youtube.

            • N. Graham

              They’ve posted libel against the two Narconon whistle-blowers so I doubt if further court proceedings will stop them.

          • richelieu jr

            jeez someone snatch it up for the poor woman!

    • RMycroft

      In the old days, when they’d get sued one at time, they’d try to make the case disappear before the next one popped up so that the next case would have to blindly start from scratch.

      It’ll be interesting to see how many balls they can keep in the air while keeping the plates spinning.

      • jensting

        You say “they” as if it were not David “he is NOT insane!” Miscavige on his own handling all cases. But it is, you know. This makes me very happy.

  • Ze Moo

    Guilty, next case please. I am surprised that criminal fraud charges have not been brought. The balance has been tipped, it may no longer be cost effective to keep NarCONon Arrowhead open. How will the going out of business sale go?

    • I always laugh when the PITA certification is mentioned. It sounds like someone was having a bit of fun when they made up that title with that acronym. But now the joke’s on them.

  • SP ‘Onage

    Listen to the money slipping away! Scientology/narCONon better get use to being the Nations piñata.

  • Observer

    From Rachel Petersen’s article on Hillary Holten:

    “On Monday, the News-Capital contacted Gary Smith, CEO of Narconon Arrowhead, for comment regarding the lawsuit. ‘I can’t comment on that,’ Smith said. ‘There are federal rights to privacy laws which prohibit us from discussing anything about former clients.’”

    Unless, of course, those former clients were hornswoggled into becoming Scientologists, turned “bitter apostate”, and now speak out against NarCONon, in which case anything they said or did during their employment or confessed to in auditing that can be spun against them is immediately published on a slander website by the “church”.

    • Sidney18511

      Very observant, observer.

    • plainoldthetan

      Scientology Inc always trots out HIPAA when trying to deflect accusations about what happened in Narconon. It forgets that the patient himself can release the data, ensuring the church can’t deflect on that basis. And don’t forget that the “rights to privacy” mean ABSOLUTELY NOTHING when violating them would benefit the church…like releasing pieces of your pc folders on a website or in a suppressive person declare.

    • jensting

      You mean that a website owned by the criminal organisation known as the “church” of $cientology smears someone who used to work for narCONon with information obtained from confidential records. They had better not do that, I would have thought, given the HIPAA act…

  • Still_On_Your_Side

    After thinking about this, it seems that if the church makes a big deal about her journalistic integrity it will backfire. There is a question of possible bias in her writing, but that has nothing to do with the level of care they promised and failed to deliver, or the possible insurance fraud. She wrote the article over two years after leaving, and has not written about her own experience. Her newspaper, however, may find itself the target of much “fair game” now that Petersen’s story has been told.

    As to the insurance fraud, it is not unheard of for doctors to claim non-payment by insurers if the insurance company takes a long time to reimburse and the doctor thinks the claim was denied. If the doctor gets paid by the insurer, however, they are required to reimburse the patient. I will bet that the insurance fraud goes a lot deeper than this and that a scheme similar to Georgia was in place.

    The level of incompetence by Narconon in carrying off the multi-million dollar scheme shows me that the people involved were desperate to deliver money to the church/Miscavige. The amount of abuse and pressure they were under was probably so intense that scamming patients and insurers seemed like the lesser of two evils. It is not a defense, but if someone involved in the scheme wakes up enough to tell the whole story about Miscavige and his incredible quest for money, it might help them. Especially when criminal charges are filed (and they will).

    • Sidney18511

      Wouldn’t that be wonderful? If someone would just spill a bean or two about the pressure they were under to make money for the miscavige, things could really blow up.

    • jensting

      The first whistleblower gets to not go to prison. The race is on!

    • Scamming patients and insurers is one thing.

      Holding drugs over people who are addicted to drugs, in your care, and totally dependent on you, is entirely another. We’re not talking about scamming people for money now. This is sexual abuse on a large scale. And it’s too late to get out of it now. Let them all rot.

  • Just another bitter apostate! Oh, wait . . . .

  • With David Love,Colin,Lucas and Eric along with these lawsuits-it gives me hope this quacktastic bullshit will end soon!

  • Sidney18511

    I wouldn’t be surprised if the COS claims that she had no drug problem at all, but went in strictly as a journalist to write an undercover untrue story about NN to propel her career.

    • Schockenawd

      Either that, or they will suggest she had a successful stint at NN and is only suing now so she’ll have the centerpiece for a sensationalistic article. Either way, it’s an unfortunate foregone conclusion that defense counsel is going to try to make whatever hay they can of the journalism connection.

    • jensting

      .. that AND that as a junkie her word just cannot be trusted!

  • Sidney18511

    Tony..during the time of her rehab, was she working as a journalist, or did she do her NN time before she started her career?
    I would imagine that NN would have information on their students regarding their job history.
    I just went to a new dentist the other day and their paperwork required that I notified them about my employer.

  • aquaclara

    Excellent and timely, as always, Tony. Thanks for sharing the story.
    I wonder how long Scientology’s $2B stash can hold up amid all this legal action…
    Good luck with the case, Rachel!

  • BuryTheNuts2


  • N. Graham

    $7,000 more for training? And I’ll bet the training involved fish swimming, birds flying, and ashtray conversations.

  • Midwest Mom

    Tony,I didn’t know if you had seen two of the most recent posts on last night’s thread, specifically from Traverse City Miss Fortune and narcononmom. Both left informative posts pertaining to Narconon facilities in Michigan, as well as their contact information.


    • L. Wrong Hubturd

      Thanks for pointing out those posts. EVERYONE should go back and check them out. TC Miss Fortune has a very good blog. She’s on the warpath! Yeeee ha, giddy yup y’all. The posse rides…

      • Missionary Kid

        Could you reference the url? Thanks.

      • Missionary Kid

        Thanks, got it. MM sent me a reply, too.

    • aquaclara

      Narconon mom has a very revealing story about her son’s disastrous experience in NN. So brave for sharing…

  • grundoon

    Tony, I really wish Disqus would give us an option to download ALL of the comments ALL together on ONE page! This drip-drip-drip few-at-a-time can’t-go-backwards concept is for the birds!

  • L. Wrong Hubturd

    From the PITA homepage about Mac’s qualifications:

    “Mac has done the research which has enabled our organization to know which therapeutic practices are effective and which ones comprimize one’s ability to completely handle addiction problems.” Spelling error is his.

    Sounds like he went to the LRH school of “research”! Must have been right after the classes about committing sexual abuse and filing bankruptcy…oh and lying in court, that’s an important class for sure.

  • California
    • L. Wrong Hubturd

      Despicable motherfuckers! Now I’m pissed right before bedtime, but I’m glad that at least someone is calling them out about it. Go David Love, go. Harry Smith, are you seeing this? IRS, are you seeing this? FBI, are you getting it through your bureaucratic brains what goes on with Scientology yet? Stop these fuckers once and for all.

      Has anyone found an email or FB for Harry Smith? His twitter account listed on the Rock Center site is not active.

      • Midwest Mom

        Contacting the producers of the show would probably be the best way.

  • Remember one of the US Soaps was taking the piss out of scientology a couple of weeks ago…. who knew that these places actually existed… I juxtaposed the pic on the right as to all intents and purposes, they’re surely the same thing?

    Disqus isn’t uploading pics, so here’s a link for it

  • PreferToBeAnon2

    Even with a refresh and a complete reboot, Disqus needs a sec check. Anyone else wrestling with this thing tonight? Grrrr….

    Anyway, I’m not sure I am seeing all of the comments, but I do want to express my gratitude for everyone stepping up. Keep up the drum beat! And please, those who are working it, let us know how we can help–letters, emails, phone calls. And, by the way, late last night Amy Scobee posted that she has firsthand knowledge of the money flow to the Co$ coffers and would be willing to talk to the attorneys.

    These suits will be great to watch. Does anyone recall if this case is also going to the same judge?

    Tony, the way you whiz bang these postings out to us is remarkable! Now that things are really getting hot and heavy, I bet you are glad to not have the albatross of the Village Voice weighing you down.

  • PreferToBeAnon2

    Now this is interesting, I opened this page on another browser and I think I discovered the issue: it’s the tweets tacked on at the end which seems to be hanging things up.

    Also, I find it highly humerous that SerenityNewLife Inpatient Alcohol Rehab is advertising here (via AutoAdChoices)… isn’t that another front for NarCONon?

  • jensting

    Well, as Gary Smith himself said in one leaked message: he was going to get the insurance handling “exported.” It stands to reason that the observed fraud was carried out in more than one location.
    Hopefully the least that will happen is that the insurance companies will settle for what the clams defrauded them of – thus making it economically infeasible for the criminal organisation known as the “church” of $cientology to continue doing it. Best outcome would be that we found out exactly how close to criminal organised interstate fraud this is and how far “up” the Co$ this money went.
    Am I the only one to marvel at the combination of total inflexibility when it comes to the treatment of victims and the complete pragmaticism displayed when it comes to making money? I guess the criminal organisation innovates where it matters the most…

  • PreferToBeAnon2

    Next stop? Vietnam:

    Apologies if someone posted this earlier….

    “The Vietnamese advocacy group overseeing the program in
    Thai Binh province wants to offer it to all 20,000 people suffering from
    ailments blamed on dioxins in Agent Orange. U.S. airplanes sprayed up
    to 12 million gallons of the defoliant over the country during the
    Vietnam War to strip away vegetation.

    The advocacy group, which has the implicit support of the
    government, has almost completed a two-story accommodation block for
    patients and is raising funds for a much larger complex..

    Scientologists believe the regime, which includes massive
    consumption of vitamins, four-hour sauna sessions and morning runs, can
    “sweat out” toxins stored in body fat. There are no peer-reviewed
    studies to back this claim.

    The center was established in 2010 by five foreign
    members of a Scientology-funded sister organization, The Association of
    Better Living and Education. They gave local staff two months of
    training. The group is devoted to spreading church founder L. Ron
    Hubbard’s social welfare programs and health treatments around the

    The center makes no reference to its links to the church,
    and the volunteers have long departed. But having its “Purification
    Rundown” treatment accepted by authorities here adds legitimacy to it,
    and gives the church a foothold from which to grow.”

    • L. Wrong Hubturd

      I just contacted a friend in Vietnam whose father is a well known doctor over there. I asked him to help us out and talk to the government officials about this stupid treatment program. He is supposed to call me soon.

      Hi OSA. Gotcha again! Keep trying and we’ll keep kicking your ass. Aren’t you tired yet? Sooooo tired. Wouldn’t some nice, restful sleep be in order right about now? Just go ahead and blow. Remember, they can’t enforce the freeloader debt.

      • PreferToBeAnon2

        Good work and keep us posted!

    • TonyOrtega

      In Thursday’s post, I pointed out that it’s the same story the New York Times reported last year — and how strange is it that the AP and the Times are so outraged about a few hundred Vietnamese exposed to this quackery in Vietnam, but neither of them ever write a damn thing about Scientology in this country.

      • PreferToBeAnon2

        Sorry Tony… every now and then life gets in the way and I miss something at the Bunker.

        Unbelievable! Well, with Vanity Fair starting the trend, I hope that the Times and the AP will pick up the pace.

  • Chloe Wallace

    Rehab centers should be a home for victims of addiction. It really makes me mad to discover this news. How can they do this? They should be helping them to recover and not the other way around. And worse, they are taking advantage of their situation.