I-Team: Lawsuits target Scientology rehab center in Nev.

KLAS-TV CBS News, Nevada/May 13, 2014

By Nathan Baca

Las Vegas -- Several federal lawsuits now target an unlicensed Nevada drug and alcohol rehab center first exposed by the I-Team. Patients and the families say the rehab center isn't curing addictions; it's trying to recruit people into Scientology.

Patients at Narconon have told the I-Team they were exposed to mold, lice and treatments forcing them to try and lift objects with their mind. State lawmakers tried and failed to write a new law allowing inspectors to check out Narconon. Instead, one Las Vegas attorney gathered families nationwide and is taking Narconon to federal court.

Narconon is the last hope for some families. Its Caliente, Nevada location, 150 miles north of Las Vegas, promises a 76 percent success rate to get addicts off drugs. Las Vegas attorney Ryan Hamilton filed a series of federal lawsuits from multiple families.

“The fraud claim being that we were promised drug and alcohol rehabilitation treatment, but instead the patient received Scientology,” Hamilton said.

So far, none of the families suing Narconon live in Nevada. They're from Massachusetts, Texas, Florida and Virginia.

The I-Team first reported in Nov. 2012 that former patients at Narconon's Caliente facility said they underwent ineffective treatments.

“There were times they would throw an ashtray up there and they would say, ‘try to levitate this with your mind. Control this ashtray,’” Justin VanderGriend told the I-Team in 2012 interview.

Narconon's own videos show a welcoming, clean and safe rehab center. The videos can’t be verified because the last time the I-Team visited Narconon, they would not allow the I-Team inside the center.

Narconon recently changed its name adding "Fresh Start" or simply calling itself Rainbow Canyon Retreat. Families claim, in the federal lawsuits, the word Narconon was never mentioned by recruiters. Narconon's advertisements mention nothing about Scientology, only saying that books patients use were written by L. Ron Hubbard. He is Scientology's founder. Even Scientology's own guidebook devotes an entire chapter to its controlling role in Narconon.

Hamilton tells the I-Team he's collecting a library of Narconon course work given to him by former patients. It shows lessons and techniques not used by licensed therapists. There is no state record of any licensed therapists or medical professionals at Narconon's Nevada facility.

One of Hamilton's clients went through Narconon's drug detox program.

"And began to experience tremors while undergoing the sauna program," Hamilton said.

Other documents obtained by Hamilton show Scientology calls Narconon its "bridge" to moving patients into religious activities.

"Of importance in that document, at the end, the patient is to be routed to the nearest org if the patient so desires," Hamilton said.

An org is Scientology religious center, including one in Las Vegas.

The Las Vegas law firm representing Narconon Fresh Start declined an on camera interview and refused to answer any of the I-Team’s questions. In legal filings, it claims the federal lawsuits should be dismissed. Narconon's attorney's say the complaints against Narconon were not "simple" and "direct" enough.

Nevada's health department asked state lawmakers to close what they called a loophole in the law. Senate Bill 501 would have allowed state inspectors to check inside Narconon. Currently, the law considers a private facility exempt from inspection. The bill did not pass because lawmakers ran out of time before the session ended.

Hamilton filed two new federal lawsuits against Narconon Fresh Start Monday. These lawsuits focus on their facilities in Colorado.

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