SANTA CRUZ, Calif. (CN) - Narconon charged a woman $34,000 to treat her alcoholism, but did not inform her that the program is a recruitment tool for Scientology, and it refused to refund her money though she left after 2 days because of its "medically unsound" treatment and other misrepresentations, the woman and her husband say.
Danette Elliott and her husband are Catholic and say they would not have chosen Narconon had it informed them of its links to Scientology. The Elliotts say Narconon misrepresented its success rate in its ads, and that Narconon and its co-defendant affiliates "are engaged in a scheme or plan to enrich themselves and to provide a recruit base for the Church of Scientology rather than to provide competent treatment for chemical dependency."
The Elliotts sued Narconon Vista Bay, Narconon International and the Association for Living and Education International in Santa Cruz Superior Court, alleging fraud and breach of contract.
The Elliotts say they were drawn to Narconon by a website advertising Narconon, which gave "a glowing report about the efficacy of the treatment program. Said plaintiff was never told that the program was part of the Church of Scientology."
The Elliotts say Narconon charged them $34,000 for substandard treatment and Scientology propaganda.
"Plaintiffs were not informed that defendants are an off-shoot of the Church of Scientology and that the programs offered by defendants are used as a recruiting tool for the Church of Scientology," the complaint states. "In fact, plaintiffs were told that the program was non-denominational when, in fact, the program is used as both a recruiting tool as well as a funding source for the Church of Scientology.
"Plaintiffs were not informed that the facility was run by individuals who had gone through the program being offered to plaintiffs and that these individuals were incompetent to provide treatment. Plaintiff believed that the treatment she would receive would be by individuals who were licensed and trained in the area of drug or alcohol addiction.
"As noted above, plaintiffs were falsely informed that the program was non-denominational. Plaintiffs are Catholic and their religion is very important to them. During plaintiff Danette Elliott's stay at the facility, defendants' employees regularly proselytized the Church of Scientology and denounced legitimate religions. Treatment included reading books of L. Ron Hubbard, a deceased science fiction writer and founder of the Church of Scientology. These actions were highly offensive to plaintiffs.
"Plaintiffs were informed that defendants utilized accepted standards of treatment for chemical dependency when, in fact, the treatment by defendants is not accepted in the treatment community as being within the standard of care.
"Plaintiffs were informed that defendants had a 70 percent success rate in treatment of drug dependency when, in fact, their success rate is much lower. Indeed, the success rate of Narconon is less than the industry average."
The Elliotts say Narconon also lied when it claimed "that their Blue Cross health insurance might be able to pay some of the costs of the treatment."
They say Narconon promised vacation-like amenities, good food, entertainment and a "retreat to recharge", but failed to deliver on any of it.
"Plaintiffs were told that the treatment was an 'open system' and was like 'going on a vacation'. They were told that treatment started with a dry sauna treatment for about 10 days to rid her of toxins. Plaintiffs were told that there would be various exercises, both physical and mental, to find the causative reasons for her addiction," the complaint states.
"In fact, plaintiff was taken to a 'withdrawal' cabin where she was crammed into a small living quarters with 9 other 'students' and 2 to 4 staff members. There was little privacy with the cabin consisting of 3 rooms with double beds. The food was terrible. Plaintiff was not allowed to leave the 'withdrawal' cabin. She was not allowed to communicate with the outside world. The basketball court consisted of a broken basketball hoop alongside the road. The laundry facilities where it was represented that 'everything is provided for you' were several worn washers and dryers in a lean-to on the side of the road."
Danette Elliott claims "the treatment received by plaintiff was medically unsound and, in fact, dangerous." She says she received a "drug bomb" of potentially lethal levels of vitamin A and niacin at least 4 times a day.
To top it off, Narconon denied Danette her prescribed medication. "This medication is necessary to treat a life-threatening blood disorder. When plaintiff demanded that she be given this medication she was told the medication was with the 'other contraband' taken from her at the time of admission," the complaint states.
Danette says she fled after 2 days, but Narconon refused to refund the $34,000.
The Elliotts say, "the conduct of defendants is pervasive and plaintiffs are not the first victims of the conduct of defendants. Defendants are engaged in a scheme or plan to enrich themselves and to provide a recruit base for the Church of Scientology rather than to provide competent treatment for chemical dependency."
The Elliotts want their money back and $1 million in punitive damages.
They are represented by John Hannon II of Capitola, Calif.