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May 22, 2014

Narconon faces federal lawsuit

McALESTER — A federal lawsuit against Narconon and the Church of Scientology seeks an immediate injunction to prevent the unauthorized use of counseling certifications, trademarks and logos along with compensatory, statutory and punitive damages, plus attorneys’ fees.

Narconon’s flagship center Narconon Arrowhead is a non-profit drug and alcohol rehab in Canadian affiliated with the Church of Scientology.

The facility has been under investigation following the deaths of three Narconon clients all found dead at the facility within a nine-month-span. A fourth died while at a local hospital. The deaths spurred legislation that was signed into law into 2013.

Since then, several wrongful death lawsuits along with a number of other lawsuits alleging Narconon’s counselors traded drug for sex and other allegations have been filed in Pittsburg County District Court.

Pittsburg County Sheriff’s Office, the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation and the District 18 District Attorneys continue to investigate the four deaths, according to Sheriff Joel Kerns.

In July 2012 Stacy Murphy, 20, was found dead at the facility, Hillary Holten, 21, was found dead in her bed April 2012, and Gabriel Graves, 32, was found dead in his bed at the facility in October of 201.

Also under investigation is the 2009 death of Kaysie Dianne Werninck, 28.

Werninck died at a local hospital while she was in Narconon Arrowhead’s rehab program.

Meanwhile, the lawsuit filed Wednesday by the National Association of Forensic Counselors, Inc.  at the Eastern District Court of Oklahoma in Muskogee names Narconon International, the Church of Scientology International and 80 other Narconon-related defendants.

The suit states NAFC is seeking an immediate injunction to prevent the unauthorized use of NAFC certifications, trademarks and logos along with compensatory, statutory and punitive damages, plus attorneys’ fees.

The suit alleges more than “400 Narconon associated websites contained the purported certifications of staff members that, in reality, have had certifications that have been suspended, revoked or never existed.”

The lawsuit also alleges that a Narconon facility advertised affiliation with an NAFC board that is no longer in existence.

“As recently as March 2013 Narconon Arrowhead falsely advertised that the National Board of Addiction Examiners recognized Narconon Arrowhead for their facility location and for their world class staff,” the lawsuit alleges.

The suit alleges the defendants conspired to “willfully misuse the NAFC logos and trademarks and falsified certifications supposedly obtained through the NAFC or the ACCFC to misrepresent the credentials of their employees and volunteers to promote the Narconon Network.”

The National Association of Forensic Counselors provides nationally accredited certifications to individuals who have met specific requirements and received specialized training to provide services to people with addictions, mental health issues, criminal justice problems and corrections needs.

NAFC is the only organization to offer an accredited Certified Chemical Dependency Counselor certification on a national level and has never delegated the authority to provide such certifications to any of the named defendants, according to the lawsuit.

“The Narconon Network allegedly “willfully misused (and continues to misuse) Plaintiff NAFC’s logos, trademarks and false certifications to further the goals and purposes of the Church of Scientology International. Specifically, Plaintiffs claim that the misuse was calculated to increase the credibility of the Narconon Treatment Centers and the affiliated counselors, and to expand the reach and profitability of the Church of Scientology International to Plaintiffs’ detriment,” according to the lawsuit.

The suit alleges NAFC has suffered by the “repeated abuse and misuse of the NAFC logos, trademarks and certifications.”

The lawsuit alleges NAFC suffered “devaluation of the NAFC certifications in the eyes of the public, the state registration boards, the national boards and the national authorities, significant financial loss, and substantial reputational damages.”

“The misrepresentations allegedly lead the public to believe the defendants are approved by or affiliated with NAFC,” the lawsuit states.

Meanwhile the plaintiff’s attorney Gary Richardson said his clients are seeking justice in filing the lawsuit.

A call to Narconon Arrowhead Executive Director Gary Smith was not returned by press-time today.

Contact Jeanne LeFlore at jleflore@mcalesternews.com.

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