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Crime & Law
Narconon under investigation again
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Narconon under investigation again

Narconon under investigation again
Photo Credit: Pete Combs
Agents from the Georgia Insurance Commissioner’s office and Gwinnett County District Attorney are looking for evidence of insurance fraud from Narconon of Georgia.

Narconon under investigation again

Update: STATEMENT OF NARCONON OF GEORGIA

Narconon is aware of the investigation. Narconon of Georgia follows customary and professional billing practices and procedures. Payment terms are clearly explained to all students.


Narconon of Georgia has served the Atlanta community for the past decade offering drug education, prevention and rehabilitation services. Scores of successful Narconon graduates and their families can attest that the program has transformed lives through recovery and sobriety.

The Scientology-linked drug rehabilitation program known as Narconon of Georgia is again in trouble with the law. This time, agents from the Georgia Insurance Commissioner’s office and Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter are looking for evidence of insurance fraud.

Armed with a search warrant, half a dozen agents, accompanied by two Gwinnett County Police officers, searched the Narconon offices in Norcross, questioning employees as they showed up for work and hauling away more than a dozen computers and boxes full of documents.

“We have credible information that indicates that insurance fraud is taking place with Narconon,” said Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens.

Much of that information was supplied by the family of 19-year old Emily Morton of Rome, who said Narconon tried to bill United Health Care $166,000 for her treatment after they were told they had paid the bill in full - $15,000 cash.

“They were billing for doctor visits – one amount was for $58,000.00. And she never even saw the doctor,” Morton said.

The doctor visits were billed under two names: Dr. Casey Locarnini at the Dunwoody Urgent Care Clinic and Dr. Lisa Robbins at the Robbins Health Care Alliance in Stone Mountain.

When asked about billings for treatment of Emily Morton, Dawn Warner, an employee of Robbins Health Care Alliance, emailed the following statement:

Thank you for bringing this to our attention. We have NEVER authorized Narcanon or anyone associated with Narcanon to bill ANY insurance under Dr. Robbins. We have NOT seen any of Narcanon's students in several years. Since this does not effect the privacy of our patients, I can tell you we have never seen a patient named Emily Morton. If they indeed did bill under Dr. Robbins this is insurance fraud. I would like to find out how many times they have done this sort of thing. I simply cannot believe that Narcanon would have the gall to try something like this again. Thank you for your assistance.

Similarly, News-Talk WSB received a statement from Douglas Chalmers, Jr., an attorney who represents Dr. Locarnini:

“A number of weeks ago, Dr. Locarnini provided notice that he was terminating his contract with Narconon. This past week, he retained our law firm to fully investigate the billing issues that have been brought to his attention…. For a variety of reasons, including protecting the privacy and confidentiality of his patients, he is not able to comment further at this time.”

Hudgens said both Warner and Locarnini were cooperating with his office.

“From talking to some of the physicians,” Hudgens told WSB’s Pete Combs, “They have not performed the services that have been billed for.”

Georgia law states that only a person, not a corporation, can be charged with insurance fraud.

Investigators hauling away computers and documents said they were looking for who might have been responsible for any false billings to insurance companies. Not only will they analyze the documents for that information, but they will also analyze the computers themselves.

“Each individual normally has passwords. So if we can tie down the password to the person, then we will be able to determine who it was that submitted the claims,” said Insurance Commission Fraud Unit Lead Investigator Sherry Mowell.

THE LATEST IN A STRING OF ISSUES FACING NARCONON

Friday’s raid was the latest in a series of legal challenges confronting Narconon, which critics have claimed is controlled by the Church of Scientology.

In February, Narconon of Georgia and its parent company, Narconon International, settled a multi-million dollar lawsuit in the death of patient Patrick Desmond in 2008. That investigation led to the initiation of licensure revocation proceedings by the Georgia Department of Community Health.

Narconon’s flagship facility, Arrowhead in southeastern Oklahoma, is embroiled in several lawsuits over the deaths of four patients. In all, Narconon facilities nationwide face approximately 20 lawsuits.

An attorney for former Narconon of Georgia Executive Director Mary Reiser said he was withholding comment on Friday’s raid until he could get a look at the search warrant.

Full story on the past investigation

Read More

News

  • More than 1.27 million people worldwide – including more than 337,000 people in the United States – have been infected with the new coronavirus, and the number of deaths from the outbreak continues to rise. Officials are attempting to contain the COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S. as hospitals brace for unprecedented patient surges. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is tracking cases in the U.S. here. Live updates for Monday, April 6, continue below:  Coronavirus cases among active duty military members tops 1,000 Update 10:35 a.m. EDT April 6: The Pentagon said the number of COVID-19 cases in the active duty force topped 1,000 over the weekend. There are a total of 1,132 confirmed cases as of Monday morning. The total was 978 on Friday. There also have been 303 cases among members of the National Guard. Among the military services, the Navy has the most cases, with 431. That includes more than 150 among the crew of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt. Restaurant Employee Relief Fund to take applications beginning Monday Update 10:25 a.m. EDT April 6: The National Restaurant Association has set up the Restaurant Employee Relief fund to give grants of $500 full- or part-time restaurant employees struggling as the coronavirus pandemic shutters restaurants nationwide. Officials with the National Restaurant Association said the fund was supposed to open for applications earlier, but the server hosting the application process was overwhelmed shortly after opening. “We are deeply humbled by and grateful for the opportunity to provide support to restaurant employees. Almost immediately after opening the application process, extremely high user volume overwhelmed the application platform. We are continuing to upgrade our system to improve site functionality and expand capacity,' the group said on the application website. Stocks rise on signs of progress battling COVID-19 Update 9:50 a.m. EDT April 6: Stocks jumped in markets around the world Monday after some of the hardest-hit areas offered sparks of hope that the worst of the coronavirus outbreak may be on the horizon. U.S. stocks climbed more than 3% in the first few minutes of trading, following similar gains in Europe and Asia. In another sign that investors are feeling more optimistic about the economy’s path, the yield on the 10-year Treasury was headed for its first gain in four days. Oil prices fell after a meeting between Russia and OPEC aimed at defusing a price war was pushed back a few days. Wells Fargo closes application window for Paycheck Protection Program Update 9:35 a.m. EDT April 6: Officials with Wells Fargo announced Monday that the bank will no longer be accepting applications for a new federal program aimed at helping small businesses retain and pay workers amid the coronavirus outbreak.  In a statement Sunday, bank officials said they aimed to distribute $10 billion in loans under the government’s Paycheck Protection Program. Funding for the program was included in a $2.2 billion economic relief package to help Americans struggling in the pandemic.  Wells Fargo officials said Monday in a statement that they expected to “fill the company’s capacity to lend under the program” with the applications they’ve already received. The application window had opened Friday.  “Given the exceptionally high volume of requests we have already received, we will not be able to accept any additional requests for a loan through the Paycheck Protection Program,” company officials said in a notice posted Monday. “We will review all expressions of interest submitted by customers via our online form through April 5 and provide updates in the coming days.” Without precautions ‘we could have another peak in a few weeks,’ US official says Update 9:10 a.m. EDT April 6: Admiral Dr. Brett Giroir, assistant secretary for health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said Monday that people need to continue to take social distancing and other measures to stop the spread of the coronavirus. “Everyone is susceptible to this and everyone needs to follow the precautions that we’ve laid out,” Giroir said during an appearance on NBC’s “today” show Monday. “If we let our foot off the gas and start doing things that are ill-advised, we could have another peak in a few weeks. ... We have to completely keep our efforts going.” Officials recommend that Americans stay home as much as possible and keep at least 6 feet of distance from other people. They’ve also urged that people wear cloth face masks in public to stymie the spread of the virus. UK prime minister says he’s in ‘good spirits’ after hospitalization Update 8:55 a.m. EDT April 6: Prime Minister Boris Johnson of the United Kingdom said in a tweet Monday morning that he’s “in good spirits” after being hospitalized with coronavirus symptoms. 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Death rates in Spain, Italy appear to be slowing Update 7:21 a.m. EDT April 6: The rates of coronavirus deaths in Spain and Italy, the two European countries hit hardest by the coronavirus outbreak, appear to be slowing. According to CNN, Spanish health officials said Monday that 637 people died from the virus in the past day, an increase of 5.1% from the number of deaths reported Sunday. That marks “the lowest daily rise, percentage-wise, since early March,” CNN reported. Meanwhile, Italian officials on Sunday reported that 525 people died from the virus in the past 24 hours, marking the country’s “lowest death rate in two weeks,' according to CNN. As of Monday morning, Spain had reported the second-highest number of infections worldwide, with 131,646 cases and 12,641 deaths, while Italy had reported the third-highest number of infections, with 128,948 cases and 15,887 deaths, Johns Hopkins University reported. Only the United States had reported more overall cases. London’s West End theaters cancel all shows through May 31 Update 6:23 a.m. EDT April 6: London’s West End theaters are canceling all shows through May 31 amid the coronavirus pandemic, the Society of London Theatre announced Monday. The theaters previously had announced a shutdown through April 26, according to the Hollywood Reporter. “We are now canceling all performances up until and including 31 May 2020 to help us process existing bookings whilst we wait for further clarity from the government in terms of when we will be able to reopen,” the society said in a statement. As of Monday morning, at least 48,440 coronavirus cases and 4,943 deaths had been reported in the United Kingdom, according to Johns Hopkins University. Read more here. FedEx pilots removed from duty following ‘inconclusive’ COVID-19 test results Update 5:14 a.m. EDT April 6: FedEx flew some pilots back to the United States after they received inconclusive test results for COVID-19. According to WHBQ in Memphis, Tennessee, the pilots were removed from service and are self-isolating while follow-up testing and evaluation is being performed, according to FedEx. The exact number of pilots removed is unclear. The company released a statement Sunday: “Some FedEx pilots were flown back to the U.S. after receiving inconclusive test results for COVID-19. They have been removed from duty and are self-isolating while follow-up testing and evaluation is performed. All areas where these team members worked are being thoroughly cleaned and disinfected. The safety and well-being of our employees remains our first concern. FedEx continues to take all necessary precautions and follow guidance from the FAA, CDC and other public health organizations related to reporting and containment of COVID-19. We continue our operation in China and remain committed to providing the best possible service to our customers.“ Dozens of Massachusetts firefighters test positive for COVID-19 Update 4:32 a.m. EDT April 6: At least 87 firefighters in Massachusetts have tested positive for coronavirus as of Sunday, according to The Professional Fire Firefighters of Massachusetts. Boston’s WFXT reports that 1,814 firefighters have a documented exposure to COVID-19, 831 have been tested for the virus and 583 are currently under quarantine. In Taunton, nine firefighters have tested positive for coronavirus. “These numbers are alarming, but firefighters across Massachusetts and the United States will continue to answer your calls for service,” the labor union posted on Twitter on Sunday night. “Please help us help you – Stay home.” >> See the tweet here The numbers encompass 201 locals representing 11,106 members, which account for 97% of the union’s membership. On Sunday, a coronavirus testing site for only first responders opened at Gillette Stadium. Duran Duran’s John Taylor recovers after testing positive for COVID-19 Update 3:30 a.m. EDT April 6: Duran Duran’s John Taylor is feeling better weeks after he tested positive for the novel coronavirus, he wrote Sunday in a post on the band’s Facebook page. According to USA Today, the 59-year-old bass player said he was diagnosed three weeks ago and has since recovered. “After a week or so of what I would describe as a ‘turbo-charged flu,’ I came out of it feeling OK – although I must admit I didn’t mind the quarantine as it gave me the chance to really recover,” he wrote. “I am speaking out in answer to the enormous amount of fear being generated by the pandemic, some of it entirely justified, and my heart goes out to everyone who has had to deal with real loss and pain. But I want to let you know that it isn’t always a killer, and we can and will beat this thing.” >> See the post here Taylor added that he “cannot wait to be back onstage again, sharing new music, love and joy.” Singer-songwriter Christopher Cross tests positive for COVID-19 Update 2:35 a.m. EDT April 6: Singer-songwriter Christopher Cross has tested positive for the novel coronavirus, he said in an Instagram post Friday. “I’m sorry to report that I am among the growing number of Americans who tested positive for the COVID-19,” he wrote in the post. “I’m not in the habit of discussing medical issues on social media, but I do so in the hopes that this will help other people to understand how serious and how contagious this illness is. Although I am fortunate enough to be cared for at home, this is possibly the worst illness I have ever had.” >> See the post here Cross, 68, also urged his fans to take the virus seriously and stay home, wash their hands and avoid touching their faces. “For those of you who still do not believe the COVID-19 virus is real, or think it is a ‘hoax’ or part of some conspiracy, my advice to you is to understand right now that this is a deadly illness spreading like wildfire throughout the world,” the Grammy Award winner wrote, encouraging followers to visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website. He added that everyone should “be kind to one another.' “Only if we work together can we defeat COVID-19,' he wrote. Several other celebrities, including Pink, Tom Hanks, Rita Wilson, Idris Elba and CNN’s Chris Cuomo, have tested positive for the virus. Delta announces changes to SkyMiles, Medallion programs Update 1:49 a.m. EDT April 6: The coronavirus pandemic has brought the airline industry nearly to a halt. In March, Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines announced that its revenue fell by $2 billion due to the spread of COVID-19 and a drop in demand for air travel. On Sunday, Delta Air Lines has begun notifying its flyers about changes to its well-known SkyMiles program due to the sudden drop in air travel. “On behalf of all of us at Delta, I want to thank our customers for your continued loyalty during these unprecedented times. While our focus is on keeping customers and employees safe and healthy today and always, you are a part of the Delta family and we know how important these benefits are to you,” said Sandeep Dube, Delta’s senior vice president of customer engagement and loyalty, and CEO of Delta Vacations. “That’s why as coronavirus continues to dramatically impact travel across the globe, you don’t have to worry about your benefits – they’ll be extended so you can enjoy them when you are ready to travel again.” Here are the changes: Medallion Members: All Medallion Status for 2020 will be automatically extended for the 2021 Medallion Year. All Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) from 2020 are being rolled over to 2021 to qualify for 2022 Medallion Status. Delta Sky Club Individual and Executive memberships with an expiration of March 1, 2020, or later will receive six additional months of Delta Sky Club access beyond their expiration date. Delta SkyMiles American Express Card Members: If you have one of the following in your SkyMiles profile “My Wallet” that is valid now or has expired since March 1, 2020, we are extending the expiration dates to give you additional time to enjoy your benefits: SkyMiles Members: If you have one of the following in your SkyMiles profile “My Wallet” that is valid now or has expired since March 1, 2020, we are extending the expiration dates to give you additional time to enjoy your benefits: The updates will happen automatically over the coming weeks, with no action needed from customers, Delta said. “We are continuously monitoring how coronavirus impacts travel and will make additional adjustments to support our customers’ needs as the pandemic evolves,” said Dube. Read more here. U.S. cases soar past 337,000, including more than 9,600 deaths Update 12:43 a.m. EDT April 6: The number of novel coronavirus cases in the United States soared past 337,000 across all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands early Monday. According to researchers at Johns Hopkins University, there are at least 337,620 confirmed U.S. cases of the virus, which have resulted in at least 9,643 deaths. Worldwide, there are 1,274,923 confirmed cases and 69,479 deaths from the virus. U.S. cases outnumber those in any other nation, including the 131,646 reported in Spain and the 128,948 confirmed in Italy. Of the confirmed deaths in the U.S., 4,159 have occurred in New York, 917 in New Jersey, 617 in Michigan and 477 in Louisiana. In terms of diagnosed cases, New York remains the hardest-hit with at least 123,160 confirmed cases, followed by New Jersey with 37,505, Michigan with 15,718 and California with 15,154. Five other states have each confirmed at least 10,000 novel coronavirus cases, including: • Louisiana: 13,010, including 477 deaths • Massachusetts: 12,500, including 231 deaths • Florida: 12,350, including 221 deaths • Pennsylvania: 11,589, including 151 deaths • Illinois: 11,259, including 274 deaths The Associated Press contributed to this report.
  • The Good Hands People plan to put money back in their customers’ hands. Insurance giant Allstate announced Monday that it would return more than $600 million in auto insurance premiums to customers, who have been driving less as states have implemented stay-at-home or shelter-in-place orders to battle the coronavirus. The company announced on its website that customers who own Allstate, Esurance and Encompass auto insurance policies will receive 15% of their monthly premiums in April and May. Customers will receive the money through a credit to their bank account, credit card or Allstate account, the company said. In a news release, Allstate said the fastest way to receive the payback is to use the company’s mobile application. 'Allstate has been helping customers overcome catastrophes for 89 years since our purpose is to make sure they are in Good Hands. We have learned to move quickly and put people first,” Tom Wilson, Allstate’s CEO, said in a statement. “This crisis is pervasive. Given an unprecedented decline in driving, customers will receive a Shelter-in-Place payback of more than $600 million over the next two months. 'This is fair because less driving means fewer accidents. We are also providing free identity protection for the rest of the year to all U.S residents who sign up, since our lives have become more digital.”
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changed its guidance late Friday concerning the wearing of cloth face masks while out in public. The CDC, according to President Donald Trump, said that people, when going to public locations, should now wear “non-medical, cloth face coverings.” The action is voluntary, Trump said in his afternoon press briefing. Since the beginning of the battle against COVID-19, the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had said that people didn’t need to wear masks unless they were sick and coughing, The New York Times reported prior to Trump’s announcement. Thursday evening, Trump had said his administration would have regulations when it came to the general population and the wearing of masks. Some opportunities for wearing masks while in public would be when going to pharmacies and grocery stores, the Times reported. Many people may now be looking for ways to make their own personal protective equipment or to make PPE for those working the front lines. There are many designs to make, from no-sew options to ones that need some needle and thread. No Sew Supplies: A bandanna or piece of finished cloth Hair elastics Sewn versions Supplies: Paper, to make a pattern Cotton fabric Fusible interfacing Elastic Pins Sewing machine The New York Times has an alternate pattern. Click here for step by step instructions. Kaiser Permanente has also shared a design approved by the health system for donation to hospitals, The Washington Post reported.
  • Many restaurant workers have found themselves out of a job as the country continues to practice social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic. But with restaurants going dark while everyone stays home, either by choice or by order of their state government, those workers were suddenly without pay. The National Restaurant Association has set up the Restaurant Employee Relief fund to give grants of $500 per person to anyone who is eligible and applies. But not all is going as planned. The server hosting the application process couldn’t take the traffic and was quickly overwhelmed, according to a message on the group’s Twitter page. “We are deeply humbled by and grateful for the opportunity to provide support to restaurant employees. Almost immediately after opening the application process, extremely high user volume overwhelmed the application platform. We are continuing to upgrade our system to improve site functionality and expand capacity,' the group said on the application website. To be eligible, workers had to work either part-time or full-time for at least 90 days in the past year with their primary income coming from the restaurant industry. They had to either have a decrease in wages or job loss on or after March 10. The money can be used for rent or mortgage payments, car payments or other transportation costs, utilities, child care, student loans, groceries or medical bills, the group said on its website. The association said those in need of help should check back at noon EST Monday for an update. Guy Fieri is one of the restaurant owners and operators trying to give back to industry workers. He said the goal of the group is to get $100 million in donations, ABC News reported when his participation was announced last week. Experts say five to seven million restaurant workers could be out of work over the next three months, according to ABC News.
  • Working out at the gym has been impossible because of the coronavirus pandemic, but an Ohio man found a way to solve that weighty problem. He built a gym in his yard. Zachary Skidmore, who lives east of Cincinnati, took matters into his own hands and built what he calls a “lumber jacked gym,' WCMH reported. Skidmore posted a video to his Facebook page, showing off his homemade his gym -- complete with a treadmill, leg press, shoulder press and dumbbells, the television station reported. Skidmore created his gym out of wood. “So my gym closed. So, I grabbed a chain saw and went to work,” Skidmore wrote on Facebook. “I managed to satisfy my hunger to work out.” Skidmore said it took him 60 hours over a two-week period to build his makeshift gym. It looks like he is going to keep in shape with no problem.
  • Pro Football Hall of Famer Bobby Mitchell, the first African American to play for the Washington Redskins, died Sunday, the team announced. He was 84. Mitchell, who played 11 seasons in the NFL, led the league in receiving yards twice and caught 65 touchdown passes during his career, which began in Cleveland in 1958 and ended with the Redskins in 1968. He finished with 14,078 total yards and 91 career touchdowns, including 18 rushing. After his retirement, Mitchell served as a Redskins scout and front office executive for 41 years, The Washington Post reported. “I was extremely saddened to hear the news about the passing of the great Bobby Mitchell,” Redskins owner Daniel Snyder said in a statement. “Bobby was a Hall of Fame player and executive and represented the Washington Redskins organization with integrity for over 50 years. His passion for the game of football was unmatched by anyone I have ever met. Not only was he one of the most influential individuals in franchise history, but he was also one of the greatest men I have ever known. He was a true class act and will be sorely missed. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Gwen and the entire Mitchell family during this time.” Mitchell, born June 6, 1935, grew up in Hot Springs, Arkansas, and attended the University of Illinois. He was selected by the Cleveland Browns in the seventh round of the NFL draft and played halfback, sharing running duties with Jim Brown, ESPN reported. Mitchell was traded to Washington with Leroy Jackson for Ernie Davis in 1962 and led the league in receiving for the first of two consecutive seasons. He made the Pro Bowl during his first three seasons in Washington. He also tied an NFL record with a 99-yard touchdown catch against the Browns, ESPN reported. Mitchell was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1983. In 2002, he was named one of the 70 greatest Redskins as part of the team’s 70th-anniversary celebration, the Post reported. Mitchell, along with Jackson and John Nisby, integrated the Redskins in 1962, as Washington was the final NFL team to break the color barrier. Redskins owner George Preston Marshall had said many fans preferred watching white players and would reject the Redskins if they had blacks on the roster, ESPN reported. He was wrong. In a 2003 interview with the Post, Mitchell said he wanted not only to be remembered as a trailblazer, but also as a great player. “I have to live with people always talking about me as the first black player against all my exploits,” Mitchell told the newspaper. “I’ve always been very upset that people always start with that. I don’t want to hear that, and yet I have to hear it constantly, and it overshadows everything I’ve done in the game.” 'The entire Pro Football Hall of Fame family mourns the passing of Bobby Mitchell,” David Baker, the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s president, said in a statement. “The game lost a true legend today. Bobby was an incredible player, a talented executive and a real gentleman to everyone with whom he worked or competed against. His wife Gwen and their entire family remain in our thoughts and prayers. The Hall of Fame will forever keep his legacy alive to serve as inspiration to future generations.”