Couple seek refunds from rehab homes

Recovery centers mistreated former client and provided him Scientology literature instead of the care that they promised, lawsuit claims.

The Daily Pilot, California/July 7, 2009

By Joseph Serna

A recovering drug addict was called homophobic slurs, held against his will and forced to repeat Scientology lessons at a pair of Southern California rehab homes, including one in Newport Beach, according to a lawsuit filed in Nevada County.

In a lawsuit filed June 29 claiming breach of contract, misrepresentation and attempts at religious conversion, Sarah Locatelli claims her husband, Daniel, received no drug treatment, education or otherwise for the $20,000 they paid to Narconon Southern California in Newport Beach and Narconon Joshua Hills in Palm Desert in February 2008.

Daniel and Sarah Locatelli were looking for a program to help keep Daniel off methamphetamines, which he'd stopped using three weeks before they found Narconon.

The rehab homes are two of more than 100 Narconon homes worldwide that aim to rehabilitate people based on the program set out by L. Ron Hubbard, who's also the man behind Scientology, according to the organization's website.

Sarah Locatelli, who with her husband and two kids lives in Grass Valley, a community more than an hour north of Sacramento, filed the lawsuit because she paid for her then-fiance's treatment.

She claims that Narconon required $20,000 up front to pay for the first few months of treatment.

She claims that Daniel left after four days in the program, the first two in Newport Beach's Narconon Southern California, 1810 W. Oceanfront, and the last two in the Palm Desert branch, because they never addressed drug rehabilitation or addiction, or offered 24-hour doctor's care like they promised.

Employees at Narconon Southern California did not return calls for comment.

Locatelli's lawsuit goes on to say they were suckered into signing up for Narconon by a hotline that appeared to have no affiliation with the rehab organization, though it did.

Though Daniel Locatelli did not need to be "detoxed" of drugs - he had been sober for weeks according to the lawsuit - he needed a program to help him maintain his sobriety, Locatelli claims.

After shelling out more than $20,000 to pay for the first few months of treatment, the lawsuit claims Locatelli was taken to the Newport Beach facility and put through an unnecessary "detox" program.

Sarah Locatelli said her fiance wanted to leave because he wasn't getting any treatment and the home was grossly overcrowded and understaffed. Also, the lawsuit alleges, there were no doctors available 24-hours a day, an important point because Daniel Locatelli had severe bronchitis when he checked into the home.

When Locatelli tried to leave, Narconon employees instead moved him to the Joshua Hills facility where he was given Scientology-based study routines written by L. Ron Hubbard, according to the lawsuit.

Among the allegations, Sarah Locatelli said her husband was "bull-baited," where he had to sit without reaction while other rehab residents called him slurs, insinuated he was there only to see other men, and wore "ratty, thrift store clothes."

Locatelli eventually had enough and gathered his belongings, signed himself out and walked out, according to the complaint. A Narconon employee caught up to him on the side of the road and drove him to the airport, according to a recount of the incident Daniel Locatelli wrote online.

The couple claim company officials promised a full refund given his brief stay. The rehab chain has yet to pay back the $20,000 deposit it guaranteed it would, according to the suit.

For its part, Narconon Southern California is accredited with the Better Business Bureau and has an "A" grade. The bureau lists six complaints in the last three years regarding full refunds.

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