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Indybay FeatureRelated Categories: California | Drug War
Wife sues Narconon. Says Deception, Civil / Human Rights Abuse, Intolerant Culture Exist.
A lawsuit was filed in Nevada County, CA last week by a woman who paid for rehabilitation help for her then fiance, only to find out that she was repeatedly deceived and the services were dangerous and not as promised. Scientology practices, made Daniel Locatelli subject to verbal attacks, often of an anti gay substance. He was denied medical care when he needed it and the staff kept him and his belongings against his will when he asked to leave. He finally escaped after 4 days.
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Man goes to Narconon rehab for help and gets held against his will; made to endure Scientology teachings and bizarre verbal attacks. Wife sues.
A lawsuit was filed in Nevada County, CA last week by a woman who paid for
rehabilitation help for her then fiance, only to find out that she was repeatedly deceived and the services were dangerous and not as promised. Sarah Locatelli of Grass Valley, CA states the Narconon program using Scientology practices, made Daniel Locatelli subject to verbal attacks, often of an anti gay substance. He was denied medical care when he needed it and the staff kept him and his belongings against his will when he asked to leave. He finally escaped after 4 days.
The Locatelli vs Narconon Southern California, Narconon Joshua Hills et al complaint can be read in full at the end of this article.
Locatelli filed suit against Newport Beach's Narconon Southern California and Narconon Joshua Hills, then located at what is now the location of Narconon Palm Spring on Hopper Rd, Palm Desert Springs. It is now located at 82652 Lordsburg Dr in Indio Riverside County in CA . She filed the complaint after repeated requests for a refund were ignored.
Among the claims against the facilities and their employees and agents are breach of contract, fraud in the inducement, negligent misrepresentation and fraudulent misrepresentation. A referral help site unknowingly run by Narconon and it's agents is noted, as well as derogatory statements made to Mr. Locatelli during the 'therapy' which show a culture of hostility and intolerance.
Narconon is a part of the 'secular arm' of the Church of Scientology but the program is clearly all Scientology and has been for many years. Most aren't aware of this when visiting their web sites or talking with their intake people on the phone. As Locatelli came to find out, Narconon hides the fact outright. Records show that Narconon representatives tell victims they are not affiliated with Scientology when asked. Yet the program componients are the same as Scientology classes and texts, just repackaged differently.
There is a history of complaints against Narconon where this is voiced. Multiple unsuspecting victims in complaints filed with state agencies and in courts across the country over the last 10 years have complainted about the degrading nature of the routines, the false promises of therapy and human rights abuses victims were subjected to while there. Scientology is currently being sued by former staff members for similar and more horrific civil and human rights abuses and labor law violations in the state of California.
What is common and uncommon about this case:
The Locatelli family, like thousand of others, first became victims of Narconon and it's internet and telephone deceptive trade practices. Mrs. Locatelli did everything she could to locate the best care they could afford for Daniel yet he wound up in the care of The Church of Scientology without her even knowing it. She found what was supposed to be a referral hotline, which in fact is run by Narconon and it's agents for the sole purpose of sending it's victims to Narconon.
Mr. Locatelli, having attended both facilities for a total of 4 days, was held hostage held against his will, denied medical attention while ill and made to endure the church's questionable practices and it's hostility toward homosexuality and indifference to the most basic of civil and human rights. Due to the vulgar nature of the verbal attacks, the program training routine 'bullbaiting' quotes noted in the complaint will not be mentioned here.
Now, when one reads the complaint, it is obvious that the comments made during his time there were crude and offensive to anyone in what was supposed to be a professional setting to receive help for a problem. It does not matter whether Mr. Locatelli is gay or not, although he isn't. He was forced to listen to and accept the intolerant mocking comments levied at him because the Scientology based training routine prohibits one from being able to respond, lest one is made to endure all the more of it and then some. Throughout the whole time Daniel was there, the staff allowed the church's anti-homosexuality pro-scientology indoctrination to go on and even encouraged it.
In their attempts to help others avoid what happened to them, a web site was created by friends of Locatelli to warn others about Narconon and their internet scam, titled: Narconon Is A Code Name for Scientology . You can see the documents that Mrs.
Locatelli, then as fiancee Sarah Vogel, received after Mr. Locatelli arrived home, which she never signed here .
<strong>Narconon Joshua Hills Board of Directors - Names You May know:</strong>
Interestingly, Palm Springs' and Las Vegas' WALK OF STARS and MOTION PICTURE HALL OF FAME directors - Danny Pharmer, Robert Alexander and Janie Hughes are listed as among the board of directors of Narconon Joshua Hills and are presumably going to be added to the list of defendents as the case progresses.
Tiffany Pharmer, the director of Narconon Joshua Hills, runs an assisted living home and is a real estate sales woman with Coldwell Banker's Yeoman Group in the Palms Springs area. Both Daniel and Tiffiany Pharmer are unlicensed substance abuse counselors and were required to train and be certified within 5 years but let their registration with California Association of Addiction Recovery Resources expire last December indicating that they were never trained as required.
Complaints influencial in the Narconon Newport Beach closure in 2010
Narconon Southern California,a subsidiary of Narconon International which orchestrated the internet, telephone and financial scheme, has a long history of complaints and of being a problem in the Newport Beach area. Mr. Locatelli was asked by The City of Newport Beach to provide an affidavit on his experience with Narconon being over capacity and because of this and the many other complaints, infractions and obvious disregard for the welfare of it's patients & the community, the city refused to approve it's use permit application. As a result, it's license to operate in the city expires February 28, 2010.
Their counselors are not CARF certified as their international website suggests, either. Narconon Exposed is well known web site dedicated to informing the public about Narconon and it's practices. Sadly, most people find it after they have been ripped off by Narconon.
Others victimized by a similar set of tactics:
Ripoffreport.com has over many complaints about Narconon listed and many of these
are about Narconon Southern California and it's Newport Beach facility. In reviewing documents related to complaints sent to state agencies about Narconon, a common theme emerges to back up what Locatelli states in her claims.
For instance, 75 year old California resident Lillian Weaver and E.K. of Washington State were each taken in by fake referral sites run by Narconon & it's affiliates, the false promises of appropriate medical care availability and forced unwanted Scientology practices they were never informed about in advance, which turned out to be the whole of the program. Unbeknownst to them and their loved ones was the knowledge that Scientology is hostile towards traditional medical and mental health practices. Both were kept against their will when they wanted to leave and Mrs. Weaver's son had his diabetes and thyroid medicines & glucometer withheld for 2 days upon entry, endangering his health especially as he lacked a thyroid to produce what the medicine was necessary for! E.K.'s daughter became ill from the mega doses of vitamins they put her on, causing her to become ill. Both parent's loved ones suffered physically and emotionally due to this, the deception and the facility's subsequent negligence against the one the loved one once they arrived.
E.K. sent his daughter to what was supposed to be a licensed, medically based traditional theraputic program in NV owned by Narconon of Southern California. Within days he found out that the facility and their counselors were not licensed, there were no medical professionals or care on site as promised for his daughter's gallbladder disease which was exaserbated by the volumous amount of vitamins they insisted she ingest. She was so ill and in pain that he called and insisted they take his daughter to the airport so he could transport her to another rehab center or he would fly out and get her himself. He only received a refund when he reported the situation to the FBI Internet fraud unit, to all 3 state Attorney General offices and the NV licensing agencies.
States Vary in Regulations; The FBI Internet Fraud site is Helpful
For E.K., a Cease and Desist Order went out to the Narconon in NV for all unlicensed counselors and specifically to the executive director of their Narconon Rainbow Canyon facility, who had claimed on the internet to be licensed but was found to not. While owned by the Southern California organization, Nevada and it's stringent laws oversaw the matter for E.K. and Washington helped represent him as a constituent Locatelli says that she's had a complaint in with the California Alcohol and Drug program for over 1 year and they have a separate team investigating all complaints on Narconons in California. ADP is limited in oversite and underfunded, compounding the slow process on complaints.
ADP does, however, have a separate investigator on complaints about other programs using Narconon under different names, such as San Francisco County programs <a href="http://www.xenu-directory.net/news/library.php?t=Social+Betterment+Development+Company+(SBDC)+(dba%2C+New+Life+San+Francisco)">New Life Center SF( aka Social Betterment Development Company / SBDC) and Alternative To Meds Center, both of which are not licensed. ATMC was denied license and the City of San Francisco denied them a use permit for this unlicensed activity, but thy still operate to the dismay of the community. Both are considered dangerous programs. Recently a negligent death case was settled against New Life SF and owner Richard Prescott ( former director of Narconon Northern CA) after a patient committed suicide while on medication under nonexistent onsite medical care promised.
Locatelli went to Narconon to learn about drug and recover from them and found that there was no drug education nor traditional individual or group therapy as promised and required by the state of California. He was made to read materials written by Science fiction writer L Ron Hubbard and was supervised in the program steps by other patients called "students" instead of state required licensed substance abuse counselors. None of the counselors was licensed and the facility was overcrowded and in violation of local and county zoning laws.
The Little Hoover Commission and the Justin Foundation, who investigate and keep tabs on the state of affair of CA rehabs have isolated the loopholes that tie the hands of state agencies and give bad programs the free reign to victimize consumers, providing low to no quality care substance abuse services. One should read these reports before going or sending a loved one to a rehab facility, especially in the state of California. ADP was unavailable for comment.
<strong>The cost is more than most and refunds are prevented at all costs.</strong>
Narconon, depending upon the center and the desperation for funds and financial constrains of the victims, can cost between $20,000 to $35,000 Of the $26,000 Mrs. Weaver paid Narconon Southern California, she so far has only received a $15,000 chargeback credit from Bank of America after their thorough investigation and consideration of all the facts. Discover VISA, however, refused to accept the documentation and statements, closing her case witout any arbitration rights allowed. Narconon, however, wrote in response to Weaver's Better Business Bureau of So California complaint, that she'd received all her money back from all credit cards, so Mrs. Weaver is still trying to get them to pay back the balance of $11,000 via BBB. It would cost her more to go to court than the amount of the claim, so she is avoiding that last as a last resort.
Locatelli can appreciate Weaver's efforts and the obstacles she went through. Her bank, Washington Mutual, was on the verge of federal takeover at the time she requested her VISA refund. They had they audacity to deny the chargeback claim without even contacting the merchant Narconon for response. Her calls and letters to the bank, to the facilities and the Narconon reps fell on deaf ears and that is why she has resorted to suing both Narconon facilities. At ripoffreport.com, one can see that some have gotten their refunds while others not. Perseverence seems to be the key.
E.K. is one of the few who got his money without having to sign the traditional gag agreement, Although he promised not to badmouth Narconon, his complaint was already in the hands of others ( myself included )before the time of their settlement.
In E.K.'s case, his checks to "Narconon Nevada" were deposited into a Narconon of Southern California bank account in Las Vegas, NV instead of being sent to CA as he was told would happen. As they are not licensed in NV and their corporation status in NV was revoked last year, the settlement was probably made in part just to shut him up and make the problem go away. I have used that complaint as the basis of his information for this article, with his permission. You can read it in full here.
Mrs. Weaver says "Because of my son's medical problems, the referral Hotline gave our number to a man claiming to be a medical doctor who told us that Narconon was the best program to fit his needs. Well, "Dr. David Morris" of GA turned out to be a scientologist with an agenda - and a chiropractor, in violation of GA state Chiropractic disclosure laws."
<strong>There ought to be a law! Buyer Beware.</strong>
Locatelli says that the ordeal was " a terrible situation that no one should have to go through." They were fortunate that Daniel went right from that Narconon into an appropriate day program and continued in his recovery successfully despite all this, but that does not always happen to victims of these kind of scams. "
People looking on the internet for substance abuse services for a loved one are a target for unscruplous vultures. Rehabs specialize in honing in the 'must act now at any cost' sales pitch, often promising anything over the phone. Once the contract is thrown infront of the abuser, he or she is usually in a vunerable state as well. Often the contract is sent to the parent or family member after the patient arrives and services are started and what arrives states nothing that was promised over the phone.
"Some people lose their life savings to Narconon and other rehab scams. This happens every day and it's not just Narconon ripping people off like this, although they control most of the web sites on the internet. It's not fair and the federal Trade Commission should do something about it." says Locatelli.
Lillian Weaver agrees. " I trusted these people. That was a big mistake."
Federal and state deceptive trade practice and telecommunication laws are not widely known or enforced, leaving victims as easy prey. Victims often find themselves put into debt without refund while they scramble for another program to get the willing loved one the care they need once they escape the bad program.
"I am paying the credit card balance Narconon lied about and told BBB that it had been refunded when it wasn't. To help my son after that fiasco, I've had to use up my savings for another program and my retirement money to repay the credit card balance Narconon is refusing to give me back. It was not supposed to be that way and it's just plain wrong. These people have no conscience at all" says Weaver.
<strong>From the mistakes of others, protect yourself and your loved ones</strong>
When a person goes to a substance abuse rehabilitation program, and pays dearly for it based upon claims made, one would expect it to be a safe, nurturing and effective program based upon tried and true traditional definition of therapy. That is often not the case these days. That is why the buyer must beware of internet and telephone claims made those claiming to be rehab referral companies or hotlines or intervention specialists.
Locatelli suggests one "get your questions and answers in writing first. Then search on the internet for independent information at http://www.ripoffreports.com http://www.narcononvictims.com and http://narcononexposed.org . Also check with your state alcohol and drug program complaint department." Additionally, there are consumer driven complaint processes such as your county and state Consumer Affairs, and the Better Business Bureau who tend to side with the merchants but at least the number of complaints and their particulars are noted.
It's taken some victims years to get their money back and for many it's too exhausting and costly to pursue legal measures to get their day in court. Locatelli is the exception to the rule on filing her case in course herself. She hopes to inspire others to never give up, too.
If you would like further information about this case or other victims of Narconon, write to contact [at] california-rehab-referral.com and don't forget to visit Narconon-Exposed and ripoffreport.com keyword search Narconon.