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Narconon’s cancer spreads: New lawsuits and a court order for Scientology’s rehab network

Narconon Arrowhead

Narconon Arrowhead

Yesterday, we brought you news of an explosive new lawsuit which alleges that Oklahoma state mental health officials covered up wrongdoing at Scientology’s flagship drug rehab facility in Oklahoma, Narconon Arrowhead. That news came out against the backdrop that a grand jury is considering claims of insurance fraud at the facility, leaked documents suggest the center is suffering badly with few patients, and there’s also news that Arrowhead has applied for a new certification as a “halfway house” as it gives up its status as a major treatment center.

Today, we have even more bad news for Scientology’s rehab network. Three new breach of contract and fraud lawsuits, filed by an Indianapolis law firm, are targeting a Narconon facility in Albion, Michigan and seem obviously patterned after the 19 lawsuits that have been filed against Narconon centers since January by Las Vegas attorney Ryan Hamilton.

Legal experts had told us that other attorneys might get into the act if Hamilton continued to have success with his lawsuits. And speaking of Hamilton’s success, today we have a court order in one of Hamilton’s suits which bodes ill for Narconon’s prospects of having the suits dismissed.

Narconon, it seems plain, is now in serious trouble.

Let’s start with the new lawsuits. They’ve been filed by attorney David E. Miller of the Saeed & Little firm in Indianapolis. For those of you familiar with Ryan Hamilton’s lawsuits, with their references to testimony by Narconon Georgia’s expert and their focus on deception in Narconon’s business practices, you’ll see that Miller has closely studied Hamilton’s model. But Miller also provides lots of details about conditions at Narconon Freedom Center in Albion, Michigan, which are apparently grim.

Samantha Nord-Shafer, a Delaware resident, and her mother, Rebecca Kennedy, are the plaintiffs in the first lawsuit we’ll look at. Samantha went to Narconon Freedom Center in Michigan, but Miller has filed the case in federal court in California because that’s the location of Narconon International and its Scientology umbrella group, the Association for Better Living and Education (ABLE). Samantha and her mother were told Narconon’s success rate was an astounding 99 percent, and they paid $19,900 for her treatment — which lasted six months. The suit describes deplorable conditions at the facility, with sewage backing up into the women’s showers, and improperly cooked food. Like so many others, Samantha learned that Narconon promised drug counseling but actually delivered Scientology training. She had been assured, and Narconon’s website says, that Narconon is a secular program.


But Miller has been watching Hamilton’s lawsuits, and he refers to a recent pleading in which Narconon’s own attorneys referred to it as a “faith-based program.”


The second lawsuit against Narconon Freedom Center was brought by Candice Tyler and John Debay of Michigan. The suit details Tyler’s nightmarish experiences in Narconon’s sauna program, but despite her severe reaction to it, she was told that she had to continue it or she would be turned over to law enforcement. Tyler claims that she continues to have physical problems more than a year after enduring the Narconon program.

In the third lawsuit, Darrell Lovett of Indiana completed a couple of stints at Narconon Freedom Center and each time was then hired as a member of its staff, which is common in the Narconon network. Lovett contends that the use of extreme doses of Niacin in Narconon’s sauna program left him with lasting liver damage.

We’ll be interested to see if David Miller files additional lawsuits in other states, as Hamilton has.

As for Hamilton himself, he’s won another victory, and this one could have far-reaching implications. Since January, he’s filed 19 lawsuits against Narconon facilities in California, Nevada, and Colorado. All but one of the suits were filed in federal court, and each of them names as defendants a local facility as well as Narconon International and Scientology’s umbrella group ABLE. (We had previously reported that International and ABLE have already thrown in the towel on seven of the lawsuits, settling them even though the local facilities have not.)

Hamilton is now dealing with a flurry of motions to dismiss, most of which contain the same general arguments. And now, a judge has weighed in.

In the Geanacopulos lawsuit, Nevada federal Judge James C. Mahan has denied the motion to dismiss filed by International and ABLE, and it’s an across-the-board victory. The defendants had argued that International and ABLE weren’t connected strongly enough to the rehab center in Nevada to be subject to the lawsuit, and that the plaintiff hadn’t properly stated a claim upon which relief could be granted. But Judge Mahan knocks down each of those arguments. He points out, for example that Hamilton had quoted from Narconon’s own internal guidebooks about the control that International exerts over the local facilities, and that International’s website directs visitors in the Nevada area to the facility there.

And so the Geanacopulos lawsuit can continue. But Mahan’s order is about much more than that. Our legal experts point out that after this, Hamilton can refer to an order by a sitting federal judge which knocks down the arguments that Narconon makes around the country. This judge’s order becomes a powerful document that Hamilton and other attorneys will now be able to use to show that their lawsuits are aimed properly.


Geanacopulos v. Narconon Order

And there’s more. We recently told you about one of Hamilton’s lawsuits in California, but we neglected to point out a rather stunning piece of evidence that he attached as an exhibit. In the Brown lawsuit, Hamilton included a photograph that we know you want to see.

The lawsuit is aimed at Scientology’s rehab center in San Diego County, the Narconon Fresh Start in Warner Springs. Narconon Fresh Start is run by a man named Larry Trahant. And on Trahant’s office wall, there’s a plaque that was awarded him by Scientology leader David Miscavige…


The plaque includes the following words…

Larry and his dynamic team at Narconon Fresh Start are hereby warmly thanked and highly commended for their dedication and hard work.

They give us tremendous back up in introducing LRH to the world and are saving lives on a daily basis.

There are thousands of beings who have taken their first steps on The Bridge, thanks to the compassion and efforts of this team.

In court, Scientology and Narconon do their best to pretend that they are separate operations with little to do with each other. On stage at the church’s annual events, however, Miscavige gives the opposite impression, making it plain that Narconon is a front group that is intended to spread Scientology and bring more people onto “The Bridge” of Scientology courses.

For an attorney like Ryan Hamilton trying to prove that in court, Trahant’s plaque couldn’t be better evidence.


Posted by Tony Ortega on August 20, 2014 at 07:00

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