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Posted: 6:15 p.m. Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Lawsuit accuses drug treatment center of fraud

By Christian Boone

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The parents of five former Narconon of Georgia patients on Tuesday filed a lawsuit seeking class action against the Norcross drug treatment center alleging fraud, negligence and breach of contract, among other claims.

The suit is just the latest in a string of state and civil actions against the Church of Scientology-affiliated clinic. In the past six months, Narconon of Georgia has lost its state-issued operating license, settled a wrongful death suit for an undisclosed sum and been hit with allegations of insurance fraud.

Tuesday’s filing also names Narconon International, based in Los Angeles, and the organization’s parent company, the Religious Technology Center which, according to the complaint, “serves as the final arbiter and enforcer of orthodoxy for all Scientology-related activities and organizations” and also licenses the “technology” used by Narconon.

“As we contend, Narconon of Georgia was a racketeering enterprise, and any company that benefits from Narconon of Georgia, no matter how far upstream they go, is a potential racketeering defendant,” said attorney Jeff Harris, who filed the suit in Gwinnett County state court.

Narconon of Georgia’s attorney, Brian McEvoy, refuted the allegations, saying the suit lacks merit “and is simply an attempt to obtain money from a non-profit dedicated to helping address this nation’s drug epidemic.”

In a statement, Narconon said its program has “transformed and saved lives through recovery and sobriety,” adding it has “served the Atlanta community for the past decade offering drug education, prevention and rehabilitation services.”

The plaintiffs in the suit say they were duped by Narconon on everything from its claim that 70 percent of patients kick drugs to its connection to Scientology. They also allege Narconon of Georgia misrepresented itself as a residential treatment clinic, a charge that led the state Department of Community Health to revoke its license in December.

Narconon, which remains open pending its appeal of the DCH ruling, is also the target of an investigation by Gwinnett District Attorney Danny Porter, who recently executed search warrants at the Norcross facility. Affidavits used to obtain the warrants allege insurance fraud totaling nearly $3 million.

“A lot of these families scraped together all the money that they had in order to put their children into drug rehab facilities that they believed were legitimate and they lost it all, some lost even more than that, some of them are still paying for this program years later,” Harris said.

One of those families, Ben and Rhonda Burgess, of Watkinsville, say Narconon, acting without permission, opened several credit cards in their names and charged $19,000. The couple say the debts forced them to sell their house and move into a mobile home.

Mike and Terri Dacy, also named as plaintiffs, allege Narconon charged approximately $10,300 on credit cards that were opened in their name without authorization, according to the suit.

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