A massive trademark violation lawsuit filed late Friday afternoon in US District Court in Oklahoma's Eastern District by the National Association of Forensic Counselors, Inc. and the American Academy of Certified Forensic Counselors, Inc. threatens to blow the lid off a long-rumored Narconon practice: inflating the credentials of its staff members by using expired or phony accreditation certificates.
Among the 82 named defendants (including the Thumbelina of Scientology, David Miscavige) are Per Wickstrom's Best Drug Rehabilitation, Inc. and the Manistee facility's Deputy Executive Director, Jason Burdge (left).
Prior to joining Best Drug Rehabilitation, Burdge worked at Narconon's Arrowhead facility located near Canadian, Oklahoma.
As reported last February by Tony Ortega on his blog, The Underground Bunker, the National Association of Forensic Counselors had been looking into allegations that Narconon employees improperly received Certified Chemical Dependency Counselors (CCDC) credentials. Two former Narconon officials, Luke Catton and Eric Tenorio, came forward to say that they were given answers before taking exams by the test proctor, a man named Kent McGregor.
This blog covered the story in April 2013, featuring A Forever Recovery's Pamela Anderson's certification by Mr. Pita himself, Kent McGregor.
Karla Taylor, head of the National Association of Forensic Counselors, was furious that Narconon websites were misusing the NAFC’s logo and giving the appearance that the NAFC has accredited Narconon’s program, which is not the case.
Taylor also received a formal complaint alleging that Narconon employees fraudulently obtained individual certifications as Certified Chemical Dependency Counselors (CCDC). Taylor said at the time that she was taking the complaint very seriously and that several Narconon employees have already been sent revocation notices, and that she’d be investigating the rest of Narconon’s CCDC certifications.
Although Taylor did not identify the complainant, Eric Tenorio reportedly told Tony Ortega that he was the one who alerted NAFC that its logo and certifications were being used improperly by Narconon.
Tenorio got involved with Narconon in 1996 at its first Oklahoma facility, in Chilocco. He eventually became the executive director of Per Wickstrom's Narconon Stone Hawk center here in Michigan. Tenorio left Scientology in 2010.
BEST DRUG REHABILITATION
The complaint includes Best Drug Rehabilitation among a list of drug treatment and rehabilitation facilities identified as "part of the Narconon Network run by Narconon International". Also named was Albion, Michigan's Freedom Center, formerly known as the Narconon Freedom Center.
Per Wickstrom's TIA Corporation owns the Freedom Center building.
Best Drug Rehabilitation is also mentioned in the allegations against its current Deputy Executive Director, Jason Burdge.
Burdge, previously through Narconon Arrowhead and currently through Per Wickstrom's Best Drug Rehabilitation, advertised himself as a C.C.D.C. (Certified Chemical Dependency Counselor) long after his certification expired in 2010.
Best Drug Rehabilitation posted a scanned copy of Burdge's NAFC certificate on Best Drug Rehabilitation's website for over a year after his departure from Narconon Arrowhead--and the expiration of his certification.
Burdge's actual expired certificate, as it appeared on Best Drug Rehabilitation's website, is shown at left.
Burdge submitted a falsified application to NAFC in 2013 falsely claiming he held an Oklahoma license and certification. His application was denied on April 1, 2013.
|Burdge (right) and an unidentified woman|
There is a reason why this case being pursued as a "trademark violation": in addition to protecting trademarks, the federal Lanham Act (15 U.S.C. §§ 1051,et seq.) provides a wide range of protections and remedies for and from acts of unfair competition and false advertising.
Unlike common law unfair competition claims, which typically do not provide for awards of attorneys' fees, the Lanham Act affords courts with discretion to award judgments to successful plaintiff parties for the recovery of reasonable attorneys' fees and costs.
The false advertising was the widespread misuse of the NAFC's trademark symbol to insinuate certification.
What's more, because Wickstrom's Best Drug Rehabilitation and Burdge have misused accreditation and symbols from the NAFC, former patients who relapsed or have complaints about the facility may file consumer complaint lawsuits.
Gird your loins, Per Wickstrom! Your saddle's about to get chapped.