This chapter is concerned with the possibility of fraud at Straight. Boston health authorities made a finding that Straight had presented one of its employees to them as a psychiatrist when actually she was a nurse. One Straight director had a masters of divinity degree yet was able to take some psychiatric seminars offered only to medical doctors because he represented himself as XXXXXXXX, MD (MD for masters of divinity!). Miller Newton, Straight's national clinical director, left Straight amidst a torrid of suits for child abuse to open his own abusive chain of programs. In 1996 he agreed to reimburse the federal government $45,000 for 254 fraudulent insurance claims. He did not have to plead guilty. When Newton closed his program in California under state investigation for child abuse, Straight moved into the facility until it was closed itself by California authorities for child abuse.
a document filed with the Florida Department of State in 1985 Straight,
Inc. changed its name to Straight Foundation, Inc. and changed its purposes
from "to develop and administer programs for victims of drug abuse,
dealing with rehabilitation, welfare, and health . . ." to "to support
and finance programs dealing with drug abuse education, prevention,
control, treatment and rehabilitation . . ." Why did Straight, Inc.
stop treating kids for addiction problems in 1985 and decide to become
a program to support and finance programs that did that sort of thing?
And if Straight, Inc. changed its name and purposes in 1985, then what
was the organization that treated kids for addiction called Straight,
Inc. that closed in 1993? Read that story here.
But Straight, Inc. was embroiled in controversy from almost the start. In 1985 Straight, Inc. changed its mission amidst a growing case load of criminal investigations and civil suits. The allegations, settlements and judgments were staggering. For example:
In the same old story like those of Arletha Schauteet, Hope Hyrons and Marilyn Kearns, on June 19, 1982, Fred Collins, Jr, a B level engineering student at Virginia Polytechnic Institute, (Fred now has a Ph.D. in mathematics) attended a Straight sibling interview in order to visit his brother. Fred was detained in a room with guards at the door for 7 - 10 hours, refused permission to go to the bathroom by a group of kids who related to him their stories of perverted sexual activities and drug addiction, trying to persuade him to admit to same. He finally consented to sign in for a 14 day observation period. Four and a half months later, 20 - 25 pounds lighter, Fred Collins escaped from Straight.(11) In a 1983 trial in which Miller Newton testified, Fred was awarded $220,000 for false imprisonment. And then there were court costs and attorney fees for Straight to pay. Fred had been unable to convince the jury that he had not only been falsely imprisoned, but that he had also been abused while he was imprisoned. Had he convinced the jury of that, the award surely would have been considerably higher. Of the $220,000 award only $40,000 had been for compensatory damages. Nobody likes for kids to use drugs, and most everyone is willing to bend over backwards to favor anyone who claims he is trying to save kids from drug abuse. But the jury felt that Straight, Inc.'s role with Fred Collins had been so outrageous that they awarded him $180,000 for punitive damages! The jury had wanted to punish Straight, Inc. for what they had done to that young man.(21)
Straight appealed the steep verdict for holding Fred Collins against his will. Then on September 14, 1984 Florida's Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services (HRS) ordered Straight to stop holding clients against their will or risk losing its license. An article referring to the Collins' trial in the Richmond Times Dispatch of January 13, 1985 states: "According to news reports, a panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recently upheld the award . . ." (An article in the Washington Post of 9-30-90 confirms that the verdict was upheld in 1985.) So going into 1985 Straight's officers and directors were still reeling from the slew of suits over the last few years; they were still facing Michael Daniels suit for his allegation that Straight's depraved methods had driven him insane and Jacqueline A. Stallings' suit for false imprisonment and physical and mental abuse. Surely they were becoming increasingly aware that they themselves could be personally sued, in the future, by other potential complainants for false imprisonment -- and/or worse. Straight directors have never been a body to do nothing whenever controversy about Straight surfaces. In the first sixteen months of operation, a half dozen directors left in protest of Straight's methods. Straight had been patterned after The Seed which had closed its expansion programs after the US Senate had accused it of using methods similar to the brainwashing methods North Koreans used on American servicemen during the Korean War. One of the exiting board members who had also been involved with The Seed publicly insinuated that Straight was worse than The Seed! In 1978 when Straight under Newton's predecessor Jim Hartz was investigated by the state on charges of child abuse, at least one Straight director had called HRS headquarters in Tallahassee to complain about local HRS official Robert Marshall--the man who had launched the investigation. Robert Marshall got fired, but his boss said that the Straight investigation had nothing to do with it. Shortly after abuse charges against Straight clinician Helen Peterman surfaced, Ms. Perterman voluntarily left to help form a Straight legacy program in Sarasota. And when abuse charges surfaced against Miller Newton, Newton left to form his own Straight legacy program in New Jersey. Prosecutors in neighboring Sarasota County had no special interest in Straight - Sarasota in 1982 and 1983. To them, organized and intentional child abuse was felony criminal activity, even if you felt you needed to do it for the child's own good. The board had wisely closed Straight - Sarasota in 1983 as it faced numerous criminal charges, and let the 50 or so remaining kids be transferred to Straight - Saint Petersburg where Pinellas County prosecutors saw things differently. But, of course, Straight did ask HRS Inspector General Judy Lyons to investigate local HRS administrator Dr. Robert J. Constantine's handling of the matter. And now the state threatened to close Straight if it did not stop holding clients against their will. So there was really only one option the directors could take. Sue the state for the right to hold clients against their will. On February 11, 1985 Straight filed suit against HRS for the right to hold teenage clients against their will--if their parents made the decision. It was HRS' contention that the child could be kept in treatment only if the admission was voluntary of if a court of law had ordered the admission. (Straight had had a long history of allegations of deprivations and other coercions to get kids to voluntarily sign themselves in for treatment or for a 14 day observation period.)
The annual meeting was held on September 23, 1985 and the board decided to take drastic action. At that meeting the board of directors for Straight, Inc. changed the name of the corporation from Straight, Inc. to Straight Foundation, Inc. (The actual document was not filed until September 26.) And they changed the purposes of Straight, Inc. to get them out of the treatment business. Recall that the original purposes as stated in the 1976 by-laws for Straight, Inc. had stated that:
The amended purposes stated:
So Straight, Inc., now calling itself Straight Foundation, Inc., was out of the treatment business. To give themselves further protection, an indemnity clause was added to Article VI - Board of Directors, stating:
Founding of the new Straight, Inc. Straight, Inc. FY 84, p.10 lists officers, directors and trustees of Straight, Inc. Look for the names Leon Sellers, Fred Kenfield, and Elliott Carr. They had been with Straight, Inc. in FY 1984, but, as of September 26, 1985, Straight, Inc. no longer existed. It was now Straight Foundation, Inc. On September 23, 1985 these three men signed papers to incorporate a brand new program which would treat kids for drug addiction. The brand new organization would be called, believe it or not, Straight, Inc.! It's purposes would be exactly the same as the Straight, Inc. of old:
Incredibly, there was no indemnity clause in the by-laws for the new Straight, Inc. To many people the name "Straight, Inc." had come to mean abuse. The new Straight, Inc. would treat kids for addictions, the old Straight, Inc. (now called Straight, Foundation, Inc.) would not treat kids or anyone else. It would seem that almost all of the potential for liability would be placed on the treatment program, not the educational foundation. Yet the treatment program would have no indemnity clause, the foundation would! How could three men consent to such an agreement? There were other strange things about the arrangement. The new Straight, Inc. would be treating kids for addictions and would need facilities to do this. Yet it had no facilities. Straight Foundation, Inc., on the other hand, just needed some limited office space to run its small operation, yet it had real estate all over the place! Solution? The foundation would lease property to Straight, Inc. Another anomaly was in money. On October 1, 1985 Straight, Inc.'s all across America had staffs with salaries to be paid. Electric bills needed payment, phone services, taxes. But overnight it had become an established enterprise with no money. The foundation, which presumably only paid an executive director, had all the money. But there was a solution for that enigma too. The foundation could grant money to the new Straight, Inc. to get it off the ground. The foundation's purposes had stated: "to support and finance programs dealing with drug abuse education, prevention, control, treatment and rehabilitation of men, women and children . . ." Straight, Inc. was such a program and so Straight Foundation, Inc. could legally give a start-up grant to Straight, Inc. and even help it out from time-to-time financially which is exactly what it did. In FY 85, Straight Foundation, Inc. gave a start-up grant to the new Straight, Inc. for $1,255,719 (Straight Foundation FY 85, page 2) which the new Straight, Inc. accounted for at Straight, Inc. FY 85, page 8. The new Straight, Inc. paid out $1,310,173 in rent in FY 85 (Straight, Inc. FY1985, page 2, #36), presumably renting much of that property from the foundation. In FY1985 the Foundation took in $780,477 in rents (but claimed $487,130 in rental expenses).
With what assets did Straight Foundation, Inc. start? Table 1 below provides some tax records for the various Straight entities through the years. [We will add additional records from time-to-time.] According to Gales Research, Inc. Charitable Organizations of the U.S., 1991-92 the new Straight, Inc. was a charity. All of these organizations are not-for-profit entities and their Form 990 tax returns are public documents.
To get some feel for how much in assets the newly named foundation started with I am going to just gloss over some figures here, but the more adventuresome reader can do a more detailed analysis if he or she likes by clicking on their FY84 - FY85 returns. If you will follow the three steps below we can quickly walk through this:
Now all of this raises some concerns. For nine years Straight parents, concerned citizens and corporations had donated money to Straight, Inc.; parents had donated their services to raise money for Straight, Inc.; parents had paid revenues to Straight, Inc.; and the early Straight, Inc. had even received federal grants. The new charter for the old Straight stated that its purposes would include, "support and finance programs dealing with drug abuse education, prevention, control, treatment and rehabilitation of men, women and children . . ." The new charter did not say that it would support and finance Straight, Inc., rather it would support and finance programs. So if the old Straight, Inc. (now calling itself Straight Foundation, Inc.) used existing resources and raised additional money to finance the new Straight, Inc. as well as "other treatment programs", then perhaps all would be well. But if the old Straight, Inc. used existing funds and raised additional money to finance exclusively or almost exclusively the new Straight, Inc., then surely Straight would open itself up to being accused by its detractors of having changed nothing; that for nine years parents had raised money so that kids could receive therapy at Straight, Inc. and now they continued to raise money so kids could receive therapy at Straight, Inc.--except that the money, the property and the directors would be isolated from civil suits made against the new Straight, Inc.
Physically, Straight, Inc.'s national corporate office and Straight Foundation's office were located in the same building at 3001 Gandy Blvd in Saint Petersburg, Florida. Anthony Agliardi was the chief financial officer for Straight, Inc. You can see from the FY 90 tax filing for Straight, Inc., page 4, that the financial books for the new Straight, Inc. were kept by Anthony Agliardi. From Straight Foundation FY 90, page 4 notice that the financial books for Straight Foundation, Inc. (the old Straight, Inc.) were also kept by Anthony Agliardi, and on page 5 he even signs the foundation's return giving his title as Chief Financial Officer for Straight, Inc. According to tax filings (Straight Foundation, Inc. FY88, page 6 and Straight, Inc. FY88, page 11) in 1989 Joseph Garcia was President and Chairman of the Executive Committee for Straight, Inc and at the same time the Executive Vice President of Straight Foundation, Inc. Furthermore, in 1989, Mel Sembler and Joseph Zappala were members-at-large for both organizations.
Just before Christmas in 1986 William Oliver, executive Director of Straight Foundation, Inc., sent out this amazing letter on a Straight Foundation letterhead requesting donations for STRAIGHT. Look at the arrow in the letter and see where Oliver writes, "Let me tell you what our recent STRAIGHT survey of kids in treatment revealed. I believe you're going to be shocked (even some of our counselors were):" And then he tells how 46% of the kids used drugs before the age of 12; 70% were introduced by friends . . . Well, The Saint Petersburg Times on 9-16-86 gives the exact same figures and attributes the data to a survey of kids at Straight, Inc. A survey that was released by Straight, Inc. Do you see the problem? The director of Straight Foundation writes "our recent Straight survey." But the survey was apparently done by Straight, Inc. By stating "our" is he implying that the treatment center is part of the foundation, or what? He continues, "even some of our counselors were [shocked]." Clearly, William Oliver is saying that foundation counselors were even surprised at the results. But it is Straight, Inc. that has the counselors, not the foundation. Did he mean the counselors at Straight, Inc. were surprised themselves at the data they gathered from the kids they had surveyed at Straight, Inc.--which is how I read this? If so, then those Straight, Inc. counselors are "our" Straight Foundation, Inc. counselors, e.g. they are one in the same. Or did he mean that the board members of Straight Foundation, Inc. conducted a survey of kids in Straight, Inc. and some of the board members in Straight Foundation, Inc. used to be counselors, and they were themselves surprised at the findings? Do you see how this almost sounds like an admission that Straight Foundation, Inc. and Straight, Inc. are really one in the same thing? But look at the remainder of his four page letter. Oliver tells the story of the founding of Straight, Inc. in 1976 and its phenomenal growth. He writes that the foundation is going to commit to 1. launch a nationwide community outreach to educate the public on the "sinister drug culture", 2. expand the current STRAIGHT facilities, 3. begin a new and improved aftercare program, 4. open six new Straight Family Service Centers. He ends his impassioned plea for money by stating that if you act now and send in $100 he will send you a copy of a video of the Nancy Reagan visit to Straight, Inc. This Straight Foundation, Inc. Christmas letter is clearly a fund raising letter to benefit Straight, Inc.--not other programs.
Look at the minutes dated August 28, 1986 from the board meeting of the Greater Washington Chapter of Straight Foundation, Inc. Look at item V. It is titled "Director's report." The "Director's report" spans the first three pages of this four page report and is a report on Straight, Inc. - Springfield, Virginia by program director C. Suzanne Hardman. There are no reports about other programs by other program directors. The name says it all, "Director's report" and means "Director's report for Straight, Inc. - Springfield." Item IV introduces Ms. Hardman as "the new Program Director." There was no apparent need to say "the new program Director for Straight, Inc. - Springfield, Va." The message is clear. When this local foundation chapter talks about aiding other programs, it means Straight, Inc. - Springfield, Va.--specifically. The remainder of the minutes verify that. The rest of page 3 addresses getting $5,800 for T.V. commercials for Straight and suggests the money could be taken from the $315,000 "quasi" building fund money (which is presumably money earmarked to build the new Straight, Inc. facility). Page 4 talks about the employee newsletter for United Virginia Bank which is to have a presentation of Straight. It is noted that Marriott is willing to hire kids from the Straight programs and that Marriott's general manager wants to attend an open meeting. In short, this board meeting was all about support to one specific juvenile drug rehabilitation program--Straight, Inc. - Springfield, Va. If the minutes of a local chapter of Straight Foundation, Inc. seem to imply that the local chapter promotes exclusively Straight, Inc., then one should not be surprised to make similar findings at the national level. In June 1987 Straight Foundation, Inc. published Volume 1, Issue 1 of The Foundation Report. The report includes short announcements on fund raising efforts like a raffle by Boston foundation locals and finding a permanent home for Straight, Inc. - Boston; finding a home for Straight, Inc. - Springfield; $20,000 fundraiser for Straight, Inc. - St Pete; efforts by foundation locals in Seattle to open a Straight, Inc. there, a pledge to the foundation local in LA to open a treatment program there (Straight, Inc. So. California later opened), a fundraising event by the local Atlanta chapter noting that it has raised $150,000 to renovate Straight, Inc. - Atlanta, and so forth. There was an article on a non-Straight specific endowment fund established by Mel and Betty Sembler; but otherwise the report is clearly about raising money--not for programs, but almost exclusively for Straight, Inc.
Since 1982 Straight, Inc. had published a four-page glossy newsletter called EPIDEMIC. I'm looking at Vol. No. 4. The lead story from page 1 is an article titled THE STRAIGHT PROGRAM. For three and a half written pages and artist pictures, the Straight, Inc. treatment program is discussed. The remaining half page is an article by Straight, Inc.'s Executive Director William Oliver in which he discusses the success of Straight, Inc. Vol 4 has a special glossy insert with a front and back picture spread of Nancy Reagan's visit to Straight, Inc. - Cincinnati back in 1982. On the last page is a notice that EPIDEMIC is published by Straight, Inc.. It asks for a $10 donation and also has a block to check to request more information about Straight, Inc. But two editions of Vol 4 were published. One is fully titled
The other is fully titled
[The blue color is made by author.] Except for the title the newsletters are almost exactly the same. Page 4 of the foundation version even includes the notice that EPIDEMIC is published by Straight, Inc. It asks for a $10 donation and also has a block to check to request more information about Straight, Inc. The last page of the foundation version does not have the Straight, Inc. logo. The last page of both versions list the Straight, Inc. treatment centers except that the foundation version lists more centers (meaning that the foundation version was printed later than the Straight, Inc. version.) Also contact information for The Straight Foundation, Inc. at 3001 Gandy Blvd is found on one and contact information for Straight, Inc. at 3001 Gandy Blvd is on the other. Straight Foundation's Vol 4 newsletter is exclusively about the Straight, Inc. treatment program. It is clearly not about "other programs". In other words after September 26, 1985 the foundation and the treatment program published the same newsletter. Volume 4 is not a fluke either. Vol 5 features an article titled RECOVERY and discusses the unique Straight, Inc. 7 Step recovery method. There is a message by Straight. Inc.'s William Oliver, and there's a story of how Straight, Inc. saved a boy named Patrick who is now a successful electrical engineer. The only difference in the two is an insert on page 3 for the reader to request reprints. The foundation version and the Straight, Inc. version provide for different available reprints and the Straight logo is removed from the foundation version. Ditto for Vol 9 which is a special eight page glossy newsletter titled "A day in the life of a Straight family." Again both versions are exactly the same. I only have the foundation version of Vol 11. This volume has a feature article by a medical doctor from Seattle who describes how she got involved with Straight, Inc. and how it saved her son. The last page is a picture spread of then Vice President George H. W. Bush's visit to Straight, Inc. - Saint Petersburg in 1987. There is a glossy insert which gives signs to know if your child is on drugs and on the back a table of common drugs children use--it is not Straight., Inc. specific. Clearly the renamed Straight Foundation and the new Straight, Inc. shared the same newsletter and both were exclusively used to promote the new Straight, Inc. teen drug rehab program.
Having it both ways. Will Rodgers once remarked, "buy land, they're not making it anymore." That is also true of time. One of the best advertisements for a business is to advertise that it has been around a long, long time. That way a potential client will feel that while other companies have come and gone, your company is still there providing a service. Straight's directors had to deal with that issue on September 23, 1985. They had a corporation with a lot of employees that had been around since 1976. They had property and money in the bank. They wanted to form an additional, simpler and smaller organization to manage the property and to promote nation-wide awareness and fundraising. All things considered, the simplest thing to have done would have been to create a foundation to do that and give it some grant money. But Straight chose the other way around. And by taking the convoluted approach it did, the board knew that the new Straight, Inc. could no longer claim that it had been around since 1976. But look at Straight Talk, Volume 1, Issue 1, point "a" at the bottom. This is a publication of Straight, Inc. Look at point "b" where the article is talking about the Drug Free Workplace Act of of 1988 and an event that occurred in 1989. This article was published after 1985 thus it is a publication of the new Straight, Inc. Now look at point "c" where it claims a success rate of 70%. I won't question that rate here. But I will question the rest of it. It says that Straight was created in 1976 and has treated more than 50,000 family members nationwide. The Straight, Inc. in this article was not created in 1976. And while the old Straight, Inc. from 1976 to 1985 plus the new Straight, Inc. from 1985 to whenever the article was published combined may have treated 50,000 family members, they are two separate organizations. Straight can't have it both ways. The claim is misleading.
If you click on A Message from Bernadine Braithwaite you will see the back page of a two-page glossy Straight brochure titled STRAIGHT, THE FAMILY ORIENTED TREATMENT PROGRAM. At point "a" you see that Ms. Braithwaite became the new national Executive Director for Straight, Inc. in September, 1987. At "b" you see that she claims that her Straight, Inc. has been around since 1976. Again, this is misleading. The Straight, Inc. of 1976 of which she refers is now Straight Foundation, Inc. Ms. Braithwaite's Straight, Inc. had only been around since 1985. Now I'm looking at another Straight document. This is a glossy, undated "Personnel Handbook STRAIGHT." We know that it is the new Straight, Inc. because there is a picture of Bernadine Braithwaite on the first page. On the second page it reads that Straight was founded in 1976 and then states, "Since that initial effort, STRAIGHT has expanded to become a national organization." And now I'm looking at a big, glossy eight page brochure from Straight which also has Brenadine Braithwaite's picture on page 1. Page 2 starts off by telling how some parents and professionals founded STRAIGHT in 1976 and leads into saying, "Today STRAIGHT is considered one of our nations' most effective drug treatment programs for adolescents".
But then Straight officials have always been known for being great kidders. Straight co-founders Mel Sembler and Joe Zappala once answered a Senate application with almost identical answers. And here's a hilarious story on Bernadine Braithwaite. Mel Sembler's good friend Walter Loebenberg used to be president of U.S. Health Corporation. In 1992 the US attorney in Tampa, Florida filed suit against Walter Loebenberg and two of his employees at US Health: Bernadine Braithwaite and a third person. It seems that Medicare was to have reimbursed US Health a portion of $300,000 required to pay medical malpractice insurance, but had made a mistake and paid $950,000. In the meantime U.S. Health had dissolved--with the money--and the government wanted its money back. [Saint Petersburg Times, 9-24-92, p. 6E., City Ed.] That case (Case # 8:92-CV-1356-T-17TGW) was settled on July 27, 1993. I do not know the terms of the settlement. Walter Loebenberg founded the concept for the Tampa Bay Holocaust Museum on whose Board of Trustees sits or has sat Mel and Betty Sembler and Straight, Inc. board member-at-large Bruce Epstein. As you recall Bernadine Braithwaite became the executive director of Straight, Inc. in September 1987. The earliest record I have for Walter Loebenberg at Straight is 1988 when he was a senior vice president of Straight Foundation, Inc. By 1989 Mr. Loebenberg had become the president and chairman of the board of Straight Foundation, Inc. According to Tampa reporter Kim Keeler of Channel 13 Eye Witness News in a special serial report called "Straight: Healing or Harming?" [c. 1992], in February 1991 Bernadine Braithwaite made an emotional, video-taped appeal to Straight parents for increased fund-raising efforts. Citing a 65% reduction in enrollments she had made this statement:
But whose salaries "at all levels" had she cut? Tax returns for the years 1990 and 1989 show that five months before she made the plea for additional fundraising efforts by the parents, her own salary had increased from the previous year from $132,000 to $145,200. Her last salary reported to the IRS five months before that broadcast showed an increase to $145,200. Her salary for 1991, the year she made the broadcast, increased even more to $151,417. In fact, in 1990, including contributions to employee benefit plans and her expense account, Mrs. Braithwaite�s share was $172,098. In the same period Page Perry�s salary increased from $72,000 to $86,400, Anthony Agliardi�s from $73,425 to $88,110. The fact is that all of the top five paid employees (other than officer�s, directors and trustees) received salary increases over the previous year. So just whose salaries had been cut at all levels.
The author of this chapter was a parent in Straight - Springfield, Virginia and offers the following personal account.
As far as I knew, I was raising money for Straight, period; and I was raising this money so less privileged kids could go to Straight, Inc. I did not realize in those days that there was a Straight Foundation, Inc. There were local chapters of the Foundation filled with people with ties to Straight, Inc. Certainly parents who were board members on the foundation realized there was a foundation. Even if I had known there was a difference, I'm sure that I would have assumed that the foundation is just a charitable arm of Straight, Inc. There was this one white family that had like eight kids. They were really struggling financially. Many of us donated groceries to them, I believe my wife may have given them some money. I heard stories that Straight was constantly hounding them for their money. If you read White Kids Only you will see that this family was not the type of family Straight targeted. Why were we raising money and for whom? Instead of spending time with our other kids who were not "druggies", taking them to sporting events, helping them with their homework, or just sitting around with them watching TV why were we spending all of our time housing and chauffeuring Straight kids, attending Straight meetings, and raising money to help needy kids get Straight treatment? After October 1, 1985 Straight parents may well have raised money for Straight Foundation, Inc. thinking they were raising money for Straight, Inc. to help needy kids, the same way that Straight parents raised money for Straight, Inc. prior to October 1, 1985 to help needy kids attend Straight, Inc.--or at least that is what they thought.
So had anything really changed? The official purposes for the newly named foundation had included, "to support and finance programs", and so the foundation was within its stated purposes when it gave financial assistance to the new Straight, Inc. However, the historical data would seem to say that the foundation used existing assets and raised additional funds to aid almost exclusively the new Straight, Inc. In FY 85, Straight Foundation, Inc. did give a grant of $1,255,719 to the new Straight, Inc. to get it off the ground. In fact, based on tax records available to this writer, between 1985 and 1993 (when the new Straight, Inc. closed) Straight Foundation made $3,280,747 in grants to "support and finance programs". Except all of the grant money had been made to the new Straight, Inc. as shown in Table 2 below.
Both organizations were located in the same building and sometimes shared officers or board members. They used the same newsletter, and minutes from foundation board meetings seem to indicate that the foundation was finding ways to raise funds for Straight, Inc. They were insured under the same insurance policy.
Several months before this editorial was written, a man who identified himself simply as "Micheal" used to post to one of the Straight-legacy discussion forums. Michael claimed to have some background in health fraud and offered some advice about the activities of some questionable hospital scams. His comments are worth reading and can be found here. Interestingly, he pointed out how a corporation could rent property to itself. He wrote, "Another technique is to have a separate corporation from the operating company own the property, which is then leased to the operating company at an exorbitant rate. There are many more techniques."
Forcing Kids into Treatment. Incredibly, despite its past reputation for civil rights violations and abuse, in the third week of January 1986, Tallahassee Circuit Court Judge Charles E. Miner, Jr. granted Straight its wish. He ruled that parents could force their children into drug rehabilitation without requiring a court order. Ten years later Judge Mary Clark, an administrative judge in Tallahassee, used the Miner decision and another decision which dealt with the Straight legacy program Growing Together, to rule against HRS which was trying to stop the restraint of clients by clients in SAFE, Inc., yet another Straight legacy program. Today, Kids Helping Kids of Cincinnati operates out of the old Straight - Cincinnati property. KHK is a legacy program of the one Helen Peterman had helped start in Sarasota, Florida.
The cover article for EPIDEMIC, Vol 6 is called SUICIDE in big, bold letters and was accompanied by the picture of a smoking handgun. An inside story had a large spread of a young man lying dead with a bottle of pills by his side. The cover of Volume 10 has a great big picture of a young man lying dead on a slab with a body tag on his toes on which is written "Cocaine, Crack & Kids". The message for Straight parents and prospective parents is clear. Get your child into Straight or lose him. There were abuses in both the old Straight, Inc. and in the new Straight, Inc., but once a child had been admitted, parents were forbidden all contact with their child until the program had decided it was OK.
In New Times (9/6/74) Eleanor Randolph tells the story of a boy named Pat who was in The Seed -- Straight's predecessor. Unable to take the pressure of treatment Pat escaped one night. Walking home a cop picked him up and befriended him. Explaining to the officer why he was out on the road so late at night, the police officer surprised him by taking him back to his Seed host home. The Seed had a mechanism for people like Pat -- the Spanking Machine. His parents were called in. Pat's fellow Seedlings formed a circle around him. His father took a belt and entered the circle. He tried to whip his son into submission as the other Seedlings jeered him on. Pat was able to get a punch in on his dad and bloodied his lip. His mother watched in terror. After the ordeal Pat's father went into the bathroom and vomited. When Pat escaped again and got home his dad did not make him go back. The old Straight kept a rendition of the Spanking Machine which was phased out before the new Straight, Inc. was formed.
The new law which allowed parents to place their kids into the new Straight, Inc. with the effect of a court order caused concerns for law enforcement and Health and Human Services (HRS) officials. P. H. escaped from the new Straight, Inc. on December 6, 1991 and made it to the police and to HRS. He told them a story of abuse. But, apparently due to the Miner Decision, they had no choice but to return him to the new Straight, Inc. as his parents' wishes had the effect of a court order. He escaped again and sent a letter of complaint to HRS on 12/11/91 alleging new abuses he says he had sustained after the police had taken him back. He also lodged a complaint against the police department and against the HRS official that had taken him back.
Epilogue. In September 1996--Straight's former national clinical director, Reverend Doctor Miller Newton, and his Straight legacy program KIDS of North Jersey agreed to pay $45,000 to the federal government to settle charges of 254 fraudulent insurance claims. Psychiatrist Raymond Edelman admitted that KIDS had used his rubber stamp after he had left program for fraudulent claims.22. In December 1996 KIDS apparently lost or settled a 1996 civil case with Roger Rossano for fraudulent insurance charges. In 1993 three KIDS counselors were convicted for beating a client. In January 1998 KIDS counselor Patricia Logan was convicted (apparently of simple assault) for an assault against 13 year old client Celena Moore in a trial in which the state's own health investigator testified against Celena Moore. In 2000 Reverend Newton and KIDS settled with former client Rebecca Erlich for $4.5 million for abuses she says she sustained at KIDS. Reverend Newton who now calls himself Father Cassius is currently in litigation stemming from abuse charges of another former KIDS client. The FBI investigated Straight, Inc. in 1993 for insurance fraud. Special agent Charlotte Brazil was in charge of the investigation. No indictments were ever made. Also in 1993 a report was released by Florida's Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services (HRS) known as the Clary Report which revealed a definite pattern of abuse or excessive force used against clients at Straight facilities, and concluded that Hon. Melvin Sembler, AO and " unnamed state senators" probably pressured HRS to grant Straight-Saint Petersburg a license in 1989 when an on-site inspection team was preparing to deny the license. And as for the old Straight, Inc. which had changed its name to Straight Foundation, Inc. on September 26, 1985, well on December 5, 1995 it changed its name once again. The new and current name is Drug Free America Foundation, Inc. Jeb Bush, the governor of Florida, is on the advisory board for DFAF which, today, is at the forefront in helping to set American and international drug policy to perpetuate the phony War on Drugs.
1. Miller Newton became an assistant director at Straight on January 15, 1980, though he was a parent member before that. His resume shows him as the director of Straight, St Pete in 1981. In a press release on July 13, 1982 Board Chairman Mel Sembler announced that Miller Newton had been officially appointed as Straight's national clinical director on or about July 4, 1982. However, he told reporters that much of the clinical responsibilities for Straight were already being handled by Newton. Even Newton boasted that, "The local programs are responsible to me. That was going on before. [Source: St. Petersburg Times, July 14, 1982, p. 3B.]
2. Trebach, Arnold, The Great Drug War, p. 40. St. Petersburg Times, 1-30-83, p. 1B. Georgia Emmon's of Clearwater, FL witnessed the incident--St Petersburg Times, 1-30-83, p. 4B.
3. Deposition of Leigh Bright for Fred Collins, Jr. trial. March 7, 1983.
4. Baum, Dan, Smoke and Mirrors, p. 158; The Tampa Tribune, 11-11-90. Attorney Karen Barnett handled Norton's case and three others.
5. St Petersburg Times, 1-30-83, p. 4B.
6. St Petersburg Times, 2-5-82.
7. St Petersburg Times, 4-23-81, p.1B. St Petersburg Times, 7-7-81, p. 6B.
8. St Petersburg Times, 7-7-81, p. B1.
9. This is a violation of Florida Statue Chapter 397.041
10. Trebach, Op. Cit., p. 57-59. For Writ of Habeas Corpus in interest of Arletia Schauteet see Newton's deposition for Fred Collins' trial, pp. 87 - 89.
11. Sarasota Herald Tribune, 6-9-83, p. 9A S.
12. Trebach, op. cit., pp. 57-59. St Petersburg Times, 1-30-83, p. 1B. Brandenton Herald, 8-4-83. The Herald cites settlements with a LuAnn Jones of Sanford and with Hope Hyrons.
13. St Petersburg Times, 8-11-83, p. 5B.
14. Brandenton Herald, FL, 9-17-83. Brandenton Herald, 9-8-83, p. B1. St. Petersburg Times, 9-7-83, p. 4B.
15. St Petersburg Times, 9-19-83, p. B1.
16. St. Petersburg Times, 9-19-83, p. b1. West 57th Street 1-21-89, "Kids of America: Caring and Concern."
17. Trebach, op. cit., p. 62.
18. Sarasota Herald Tribune, 10-9-83.
19. St. Petersburg Times, 6 -11-85. Straight settled with this Hillsborough County woman for $37,500.
20. St Petersburg Times, 11-15-83, p. B1.
21. Saint Petersburg Times, May 26, 1983, p. B1. "Jury says Straight must pay $220,000"