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Scientology’s drug rehab facility in Nevada sued over the usual litany of deceptions

Ryan Hamilton

Ryan Hamilton

Last year, as Scientology’s drug rehab network, Narconon, was sinking deeper and deeper into trouble, we noticed that an attorney in Las Vegas, Ryan Hamilton, had begun advertising online for Narconon victims. It was another sign of just how bad things were getting for Scientology’s rehab facilities, which were being sued and investigated in several states.

Well, Hamilton’s ad apparently paid off, because this week he filed a federal lawsuit against Scientology’s Narconon facility in Nevada, and the lawsuit’s complaint is one of the best written and most thorough that we’ve ever read.

David, Stacy, and Jack Welch of Texas are suing Narconon Fresh Start, doing business as the Rainbow Canyon Retreat in Caliente, Nevada, for breach of contract, fraud, and negligence.

According to the complaint, in August Stacy Welch and her husband David began searching on the Internet for a rehab facility for their son Jack, who was 19. Like so many others before her, Stacy found a site that purported to be an independent dispenser of advice about such facilities. She was strongly persuaded by a consultant from the website to send Jack to a Nevada center called “Fresh Start.”

“The consultant never referred to the facility as Narconon, but only as ‘Fresh Start,'” the complaint says.

Stacey and David were then told that they had to hurry, or their son “would wind up dead.”


That certainly sounds familiar. Last year, we reported that some scripts used by Narconon referrers had been leaked to the Internet, and one of the things that consultants are told to do is get a family worked up into a frenzy, telling them that if they don’t hurry, it could have dire consequences.

The consultant then set up an interview with Narconon Fresh Start’s intake director, Josh Penn, who told the Welches that Narconon has a 76 percent success rate.

That’s another thing that comes right out of the scripts, but as we’ve pointed out before, even Narconon’s own legal affairs officer has admitted that there’s no science for the ludicrous success rates the program claims. (Reputable drug rehab programs claim success rates of about 25 percent.)

The Welches told Penn that they had spotted a reference to L. Ron Hubbard on the the Fresh Start website, but when they asked whether Scientology was involved, Penn assured them that it wasn’t.

The Welches were told they’d have to pay $33,000 up front, and that before Jack could enter the program in Nevada, he’d first have to go through a medical detox in Murrieta, California.

The Welches signed a contract, and the complaint points out that the contract describes Narconon’s origin — it was started in 1966 by a man named William Benitez, who had been inspired by Hubbard’s book, The Fundamentals of Thought.

The complaint points out that the actual name of the book is Scientology: The Fundamentals of Thought, The Basic Book of the Theory and Practice of Scientology for Beginners. The Welches believe that the full name is left out of the Narconon contract in order to hide the program’s connection to Scientology.

The contract also refers to the Narconon program as a secular one. But as we’ve pointed out many times, the Narconon program is virtually identical to the introductory levels of Scientology itself, as the Welches learned…

“Despite Narconon’s representation that it is a secular program, the Narconon Program has patients unwittingly practicing and studying Scientology in place of counseling for substance abuse.”

The first indication that the Welches had made a mistake was when they learned they’d have to pay an additional $3,250 for Jack’s medical detox.

They also figured out that the supposedly independent referrer was in fact “affiliated with Narconon,” and received a bounty for sending patients there. (In fact, Luke Catton has told us that this is definitely the case. Catton, who was president of Narconon’s flagship operation in Oklahoma, operated numerous referral websites, and received a 10 percent commission for each person convinced to sign up for Narconon.)

After the detox facility (which they suspect was part of the Narconon network, even though they had been told it was “independent”), Jack was flown to Las Vegas, where he was picked up for the long drive to Caliente, Nevada “by a convicted felon who was the boyfriend of one of the Narconon staff members.”

When he got there, he was told he had to sign “a statement attesting that he is not a journalist and that he would not sue Narconon for anything that happens in the facility.”

Jack was housed in an area known as the “Treehouse,” where he began to go through Scientology training. He was later moved to the main housing area. But during his time there, he was not allowed to talk to his parents very often.

“In the initial calls to his family, Jack was always on a speakerphone with a staff member present. Jack and other students were afraid to criticize Narconon over the phone for fear of repurcussions from staff members,” the complaint says.

It also alleges that staff members were using drugs. As others have pointed out, staff workers at Narconon are former patients, and there are no medical personnel on hand.

Another confirmation of what Lucas Catton and others have told us: at Narconon drug rehab centers, there is no drug counseling going on. “Despite Narconon’s representations that Jack would receive counseling, at no point did Narconon staff ever speak to Jack about the specifics of his life or his drug use and its causes. In fact, no one at Narconon ever spoke to Jack about substance abuse at all,” the complaint says.

Instead, Jack received more Scientology training. Including the notorious exercise TR 8, which includes shouting instructions at an ashtray.

“Jack, like other students in the Narconon facility there at the time, was made to perform TR 8, and many other TRs that have no apparent connection to the treatment of substance abuse, for several hours each day,” the complaint says. “Jack felt very uneasy to be in a room filled with students screaming commands at ashtrays at the top of their lungs.”

The complaint then goes into a detailed description of the Scientology concepts and procedures that students are expected to absorb. They are also expected to sit in a sauna for several hours a day as part of Scientology’s “Purification Rundown,” which includes doses of Niacin up to 5,000 mg a day. Jack spent 24 to 26 days in the sauna.

“Jack experienced severe dehydration, headaches, and persistent diarrhea during the sauna program. The Niacin made his skin feel as if he had a bad, lasting sunburn. He observed many of his fellow students likewise becoming ill during the sauna program. Each time Jack complained to the staff supervisor on duty about his severe headaches and feeling ill, he was told to get back in the ‘Box’ and, ‘What turns it on, turns it off’.”

The complaint alleges that Jack continues to have health problems related to his time in the Purification Rundown.

To be eligible for federal district court, the Welches allege that they have suffered more than $75,000 in losses. But no dollar amount of damages sought is listed.

In November 2012, Las Vegas reporter Nathan Baca did a two-part investigative series about the facility at Caliente. He later reported that Nevada’s oversight is so weak, the facility is essentially unregulated. After his story, a bill was proposed to regulate the rehab center, but the bill failed to become law.


Welch v Narconon Fresh Start


Sunday Funnies: One blast from the past

Because of our breaking news about the lawsuit this morning, we’re going to keep Sunday Funnies short with just one excellent item forwarded to us by one of our great tipsters. It’s a Celebrity magazine cover featuring a certain Canadian film director you may recognize.



Posted by Tony Ortega on February 2, 2014 at 07:00

E-mail your tips and story ideas to or follow us on Twitter. We post behind-the-scenes updates at our Facebook author page. Here at the Bunker we try to have a post up every morning at 7 AM Eastern (Noon GMT), and on some days we post an afternoon story at around 2 PM. After every new story we send out an alert to our e-mail list and our FB page.

Learn about Scientology with our numerous series with experts…

BLOGGING DIANETICS (We read Scientology’s founding text) 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25

UP THE BRIDGE (Claire Headley and Bruce Hines train us as Scientologists) 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 39

GETTING OUR ETHICS IN (Jefferson Hawkins explains Scientology’s system of justice) 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14

SCIENTOLOGY MYTHBUSTING (Historian Jon Atack discusses key Scientology concepts) 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40


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