Jailed, disbarred lawyer Thomas Corea would rather be at controversial drug rehab facility tied to Church of Scientology

The Dallas Morning News/November 22, 2012

Disbarred Dallas lawyer Thomas Corea wanted to kick his addiction to a prescription anti-anxiety medication at a drug rehabilitation center about 20 miles north of the Mexico border, according to testimony.

In arguing against that request, Assistant District Attorney Jacob Harris suggested Texas LoneStar Victory Ranch is a "med spa" and he questioned the director, who testified by phone, about the fact that he's neither a medical doctor or a Ph.D.

And in denying the request, state District Judge Mike Snipes said he could not risk the possibility that Corea might flee.

But what's most interesting about the South Texas facility that Corea isn't going to any time soon is what was left unsaid in a Dallas County courtroom on Wednesday. That facility is part of Narconon, a controversial international drug rehab network with ties to the Church of Scientology.

Narconon has been in the news quite a bit lately.

There's the case of a 20-year-old woman who died at Narconon Arrowhead in Oklahoma in July, spurring an ongoing, multi-agency investigation of the facility's practices, according to the Tulsa World. That newspaper reported Wednesday that her death was caused by an overdose of the prescription pain reliever oxymorphone.

It was one of three deaths at the facility since last year, according to reports. One of the other two deaths was of a 21-year-old Carrollton woman, according to reports. Per to the Tulsa World, "Narconon Arrowhead is the flagship branch of an international drug-rehabilitation organization rooted in the teachings of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard."

Earlier this year, a Narconon facility in Quebec was shut down because it posed health risks, according to media reports.

According to an August Tampa Bay Times piece:

Narconon centers claim success rates of 75 to 90 percent. But their methods, developed by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, have drawn fire over the years. They include high doses of niacin and lengthy sauna sessions that are said to release stored drug residues from fat tissue — a Hubbard theory contested by many health professionals.

The Narconon network of treatment centers is part of a Church of Scientology "sector" called the Association for Better Living and Education, or ABLE. It supports and coordinates the church's "social betterment" causes, such as combating drug use, advancing human rights and improving literacy.

Narconon and Scientology officials defend the operations and have said media misrepresented facts about the Oklahoma investigation, according to reports.

Also in August, NBC's Rock Center with Brian Williams aired an extensive piece about Narconon, including interviews with relatives of people who died at the Oklahoma facility. From that piece:

Narconon's method of rehabilitation is unorthodox. Patients are called "students" and they study a series of eight books based on the writings of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard.

The books resemble grade school workbooks and the students practice exercises that Narconon says helps them lead drug-free lives. The program costs $30,000 per patient and the treatment usually takes three to six months to complete.

Narconon's unconventional methods include spending up to five hours a day in a sauna for 30 straight days and taking up to 5,000 milligrams of the vitamin Niacin daily. It is similar to Scientology's regimen called a "purification run-down," designed to free the body of toxins in order to achieve spiritual gains.

Narconon is a "non-medical treatment facility," meaning it does not administer pharmaceutical drugs to aid in the withdrawal process or the healing of addiction. Hubbard shunned the pharmaceutical, psychiatric and psychotherapy industries. He believed any drug is essentially a poison and even medicines create a barrier to spiritual well-being.

The detox is part of a larger system of life skills training that many Narconon graduates say has helped them lead drug-free lives.

The NBC piece included a clip from the now infamous Tom Cruise Scientology video posted online in which the actor proclaims, "We are the authorities on getting people off drugs."

Which brings us back to Wednesday morning in a Dallas County courtroom, where Snipes had a guy on speaker phone by the name of Joseph Sauceda, the executive director of LoneStar Victory Ranch.

Sauceda testified that he'd never met or talked to Corea, but that they'd accepted him into their program following what was apparently a third-hand evaluation of the prospective student.

"It's an extensive program," Sauceda said, adding that it runs anywhere from three to six months long. The first part is devoted to cleansing the patient of drugs, while the second part is devoted to teaching life skills, he said.

Sauceda cited a success rate between 75 and 78 percent with follow-up.

The facility sits on more than 17 acres of land, has 24 beds and is surrounded by sugar cane and cotton. They have no armed guards, and though they've treated a few people convicted of crimes, they have never treated someone prior to a possible conviction, he said.

Corea had paid at least about half of the more than $30,000 fee it would have cost, though it's unclear how he came up with that money, Sauceda said.

After several minutes, Snipes had heard enough and ended the call.

There was no talk of the Church of Scientology. Nothing about the scandals surrounding Narconon. It's unclear whether the judge or the attorneys knew of the link.

But it probably didn't matter as far as Snipes was concerned. Following closing arguments by both attorneys, Snipes denied the request and sent Corea back to the Dallas County jail.

No word on whether that LoneStar Victory Ranch payment is refundable.

To see more documents/articles regarding this group/organization/subject click here.