FOIA Request Reveals FTC Flooded with Narconon Complaints

Since the initial launch of the Narconon Reviews website, we have been encouraging victims of Narconon’s fraudulent detox and rehabilitation practices to file complaints with various government agencies. This website has also been promoting the almighty power of using open record requests to obtain primary sources on the never-ending controversies surrounding the Narconon program.

Evidence of these controversies has been piling up so fast in recent years; we are now seeing a nationwide trend of dropping the usual “Narconon” or “Fresh Start” brand names on new rehabs. Meanwhile, the Scientologists running these centers are also renaming existing Narconon facilities with cushy, feel-good fictitious business names like Emerald Pines Rehab, Riverbend Retreat and Tranquility Detox. This deceptive rebranding conveniently allows the embattled ABLE franchise of Scientology-based drug and alcohol treatment centers to distance their facilities from the long, sordid history of damning media coverage, rip-off reports and lawsuits associated with the Narconon brand.

This trend inspired me to join forces with the Narconon Reviews team and take up their call to arms for filing more record requests. I also opted to bring the power of MuckRock News service to the table so that we could commence to doxing one of the Church of Scientology’s biggest revenue streams en bloc. During the past few months, we have received so much documentation via Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) releases and record requests, it will likely take us until this time next year to compile and publish it all on this website and elsewhere. To get that party started, we have decided to begin with releasing a cache of Federal Trade Commission (FTC) complaints for fraud and deceptive business practices spanning 15 different Narconon corporations.

I began my quest for obtaining FTC complaints by requesting any records filed against the Narconon Arrowhead treatment center in Canadian, Oklahoma on April 17, 2015. I was working under the assumption that we would have to file a separate FOIA request on each US-based facility. The results of my first disclosure were somewhat disappointing. Despite the widely reported deaths at Narconon Arrowhead, I only received one FTC complaint:

Persistence is one of my specialties. So I filed a second FOIA request on the Narconon Rainbow Canyon recovery center in Caliente, Nevada on May 3, 2015. Fortunately, the FTC decided to ignore the specified address I supplied for a single rehab location. Instead, they responded with two raw data dumps in spreadsheet format for ALL 58 complaints mentioning the word “Narconon” that was currently in their system:

Needless to say, this was a huge “get” for a single request.

We took the larger of the two files the FTC provided, imported the raw data into our own database, and then generated the custom reports indexed below for the sake of providing easily readable output. After weeding out a few records for unspecified locations and some mundane telemarketing gripes, we ended up with 55 FTC complaints filed against the treatment centers in the Narconon network since 2008. A collection that nearly doubled the total number of formal complaints provided as a public service on this website.

This all-inclusive disclosure revealed some valuable insights into just how widespread the dissatisfaction with Narconon’s practices really is. Not surprisingly, many of the usual issues we see repeated as the underlying reasons for the causes of action in the growing list of pending Narconon lawsuits are similarly documented in the FTC complaints. A small sampling of those points of commonality includes:

  • Questionable insurance billing practices,
  • Refusal of refunds,
  • No professional medical supervision during detoxification,
  • Lack of standard addiction counseling,
  • Unsanitary living conditions,
  • Denial of prescribed medications,
  • Improper care and failure to provide the services promised,
  • Deceptive marketing and scam referrals,
  • Former program graduates falsely portrayed as fully licensed/certified staff, and
  • Prevalent drug and alcohol use amongst staff.

Albeit shocking to see these issues consistently documented throughout the FTC complaints, the reality is this is the standard modus operandi for all Scientology-based drug treatment centers. However, the most interesting thing we learned in this FOIA release was that the originating sources of the complaints included unhappy consumers as well as several other investigative and law enforcement agencies throughout the United States and Canada. A statistical synopsis of these sources is as follows.

  • Narconon complaints received from state Attorney General offices: 24
  • Narconon complaints received from the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3): 14
  • Narconon complaints received directly from consumers: 14
  • Narconon complaints received from other external agencies: 3

Some of the complaints cross-filed with the FTC from the Attorney General offices in California, Michigan and Ohio are lacking a descriptive narrative. We suspect this is in accordance with the standard FOIA regulations for active investigations by law enforcement agencies being exempt from disclosure. Nevertheless, due to the nature of the raw data provided by the FTC, we were given basic case profile details on all of the redacted complaints despite the restrictions in the federal law. The result being that the collection as a whole is extremely informative in depth and scope.

You can review the custom database reports we generated for publication from the listings by location below, or check out the original disclosure files on the MuckRock FOIA Request page.

Albion, Michigan

  1. FTC Complaint, Narconon Freedom Center, January 10, 2010
  2. FTC Complaint, Narconon Freedom Center, February 18, 2010
  3. FTC Complaint, Narconon Freedom Center, March 9, 2010
  4. FTC Complaint, Narconon Freedom Center, July 8, 2010
  5. FTC Complaint, Narconon Freedom Center, June 11, 2010
  6. FTC Complaint, Narconon Freedom Center, July 19, 2010
  7. FTC Complaint, Narconon Freedom Center, July 26, 2010
  8. FTC Complaint, Narconon Freedom Center, August 27, 2010
  9. FTC Complaint, Narconon Freedom Center, August 27, 2010
  10. FTC Complaint, Narconon Freedom Center, September 2, 2010
  11. FTC Complaint, Narconon Freedom Center, September 10, 2009
  12. FTC Complaint, Narconon Freedom Center, September 22, 2010
  13. FTC Complaint, Narconon Freedom Center, September 22, 2010
  14. FTC Complaint, Narconon Freedom Center, October 11, 2010
  15. FTC Complaint, Narconon Freedom Center, October 18, 2010
  16. FTC Complaint, Narconon Freedom Center, February 10, 2011
  17. FTC Complaint, Narconon Freedom Center, February 15, 2011
  18. FTC Complaint, Narconon Freedom Center, February 17, 2011
  19. FTC Complaint, Narconon Freedom Center, February 25, 2011
  20. FTC Complaint, Narconon Freedom Center, March 2, 2011
  21. FTC Complaint, Narconon Freedom Center, March 9, 2011
  22. FTC Complaint, Narconon Freedom Center, November 26, 2012

Caliente, Nevada

  1. FTC Complaint, Narconon Rainbow Canyon Retreat, March 9, 2009
  2. FTC Complaint, Narconon Rainbow Canyon Retreat, March 9, 2009
  3. FTC Complaint, Narconon Rainbow Canyon Retreat, March 17, 2009
  4. FTC Complaint, Narconon Rainbow Canyon Retreat, April 23, 2012
  5. FTC Complaint, Narconon Rainbow Canyon Retreat, July 1, 2012
  6. FTC Complaint, Narconon Rainbow Canyon Retreat, September 26, 2012
  7. FTC Complaint, Narconon Rainbow Canyon Retreat, October 3, 2012

Los Angeles / Glendale, California

  1. FTC Complaint, Narconon Southern California, August 16, 2008
  2. FTC Complaint, Narconon Fresh Start, April 4, 2011
  3. FTC Complaint, Narconon Fresh Start, July 10, 2013
  4. FTC Complaint, Narconon Fresh Start, March 21, 2015

Newport Beach, California

  1. FTC Complaint, Narconon Newport Beach, August 16, 2008
  2. FTC Complaint, Narconon Newport Beach, October 10, 2012

Norcross, Georgia

  1. FTC Complaint, Narconon of Georgia, September 21, 2009
  2. FTC Complaint, Narconon of Georgia, November 15, 2010

Warner Springs, California

  1. FTC Complaint, Narconon Warner Springs, October 29, 2008
  2. FTC Complaint, Sunshine Summit Lodge, November 4, 2010
  3. FTC Complaint, Narconon Warner Springs, May 12, 2011
  4. FTC Complaint, Narconon Warner Springs, November 3, 2012
  5. FTC Complaint, Narconon Warner Springs, April 24, 2014
  6. FTC Complaint, Narconon Warner Springs, August 14, 2014

Watsonville, California

  1. FTC Complaint, Narconon Watsonville, March 17, 2010
  2. FTC Complaint, Narconon Watsonville, March 30, 2010
  3. FTC Complaint, Narconon Watsonville, June 5, 2010
  4. FTC Complaint, Narconon Watsonville, September 14, 2010
  5. FTC Complaint, Narconon Watsonville, October 16, 2013

Other locations

  1. FTC Complaint, Narconon Arrowhead, July 25, 2008
  2. FTC Complaint, Narconon International, September 22, 2009
  3. FTC Complaint, Narconon East US, September 23, 2009
  4. FTC Complaint, Narconon Stonehawk, January 12, 2011
  5. FTC Complaint, Narconon Fort Collins, March 26, 2012
  6. FTC Complaint, Narconon Trois Rivieres, May 29, 2012
      Related: Competition Bureau Canada, Narconon Trois Rivieres, May 30, 2012
  7. FTC Complaint, Narconon Riverbend Retreat, October 19, 2012

And that’s not all she wrote! We have hundreds of pages of public safety records on active Narconon centers from various police, ambulance and EMS dispatch agencies gathered from other MuckRock record requests. This material will be incorporated into our document management system as a new category of documented resources later this year. We also plan to file for additional disclosures from the FTC on other Scientology-based treatment centers that do not use the Narconon name brand at a later date. You can stay informed of future document releases as they become available by subscribing to this blog for automatic email notifications.

M e m o s

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  1. Ann From the Desk of...
    Ann

    It’s great to have you working with us, Heidi! Welcome aboard.

  2. From the Desk of...
    Matthew

    Very well done..I find it interesting that a repeated pattern of improprieties by narCONon show an entity corrupt from the top on down.

  3. Kelly From the Desk of...
    Kelly

    Great job, Heidi. You are a doxinatrix extraordinaire! Welcome to the team at Narconon Reviews.

  4. Mary McConnell From the Desk of...
    Mary McConnell

    It’s wonderful to see the culmination of all the work that went in to request, get, gather, format, organize,, summarize and then post all these important documents here; all ready to be opened and read by the public.. And these are just the FTC complaints!!

    Terrific to have you on the team, Heidi! The documents you have been obtaining, and the efforts you put in to help us get these out to the public here is much appreciated!

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