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Suspected Rehab Clinic Toll Hits 11

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Los Angeles County supervisors called Tuesday for a crackdown on unlicensed alcohol rehabilitation clinics as the number of suspicious deaths linked to the facilities rose to 11 and allegations surfaced of beatings and whippings at some clinics.

The supervisors assailed court officials for not knowing that some criminal defendants were referred to such facilities to serve sentences that require alcohol abuse counseling.

“The thing that blows my mind is that the courts had on their list of referrals these particular agencies,” said county Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky at the board’s weekly meeting.

Defendants sent to such clinics “came for help and they were killed,” he said. “If we do nothing else as a county or state, it’s to protect those who are vulnerable.”

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The number of suspicious deaths under investigation by the coroner’s office has risen by three from the previously reported total of eight, said county Supervisor Mike Antonovich.

Fred Leaf, chief of compliance and contracts for the county Department of Health Services, said court officials were unaware of the methods used at the facilities, which billed themselves as Spanish language Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and were included on a list compiled by Alcoholics Anonymous.

“Really, the court, in a way, was duped, as all of us have been,” Leaf said. “The problem with this group is that what appears to be sort of a tame AA meeting turns into a nightmare.”

Leaf announced three more arrests--bringing the total to 10--in connection with activities at the clinics, which he described as “almost cultish.”

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