Thursday, December 22, 2005

Scientologist facing class action lawsuit
Others come forward in Front Sight litigation

The Pahrump Valley Times


Editor's note: This is the second installment of our ongoing series on Front Sight. The owners [mostly Scientogists] of the firearms training facility and residential subdivision are the targets of a class-action lawsuit.

A home on the range in an upscale resort sounds good.

For firearms enthusiasts offered a home-site complete with a state-of-the-art shooting facility, it sounds even better.

Add a lifetime of professional instruction - with free shooting, hunting and martial arts classes - and that's a dream come true.

But like the old adage says, if it sounds too good to be true it probably is. A class action lawsuit filed against Front Sight Nov. 7 alleges that the organization used false and misleading statements in order to sell memberships.

From Front Sight's earliest days in 1998, the organization's president, former chiropractor Dr. Ignatius Piazza, sold firearms training and the prospect of living in a gated community on the grounds of Front Sight, which he deemed would become "The safest community in America."

The unique concept of a community based on firearms training keeps Front Sight in the news.

In fact, Piazza's mastery of marketing has netted worldwide recognition for Front Sight with television coverage, as well as newspaper and magazine articles appearing throughout the U.S. and Europe.

Piazza's offer to train commercial pilots after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in 2001 resulted in mentions in the Washington Post, World Net Daily and on CNN.

While students grumble about the seemingly endless mailings and special offers generated from Front Sight, few, if any, question the validity of the facility's firearms training.

However, Piazza's frequent mailer program could lead to his downfall, according to litigants. He has reportedly made a lot of promises in writing.

In an Associated Press article dated April 26, 1999 reporter Angie Wagner wrote: '"Piazza expects Front Sight's first phase completed by year's end. New residents will be welcome by the end of 2000, he says."'

To date, only a security guard and a firearms instructor live on-site, in recreational vehicles.

In July 2002, a mailer sent to students from Front Sight read, "Electricity and water supply was completed some time ago, so we are now beginning the development of all underground utilities and sewer to be completed on phase one of the facility before the fall courses."

The flyer further stated: "Yes, this means real bathrooms - about 20 separate, multi stall bathroom buildings!"

Three years after receiving that notification, students in 2005 are still using portable toilets supplied and serviced by Joe's Sanitation of Pahrump. They are kept clean and well equipped, but they are a far cry from the promised "real bathrooms."

Pahrump Sanitation, the company originally supplying portable toilets to the firing ranges, removed its equipment after Front Sight fell substantially behind in payments for rental and servicing fees.

With hundreds of students attending classes on a weekly basis, Pahrump Sanitation owner Phil Hibdon had purchased a number of new portable toilets to place near the ranges and classroom areas. The facility required more than 20 units on a permanent basis.

"I did a lot of things for them," Hibdon said. "It's a long story. They owed me $20,000 and after about six months I got fed up with them."

Eventually, Hibdon prevailed and was paid. "I thought I better get out while I was ahead," he said, explaining why he removed his equipment.

Four former Front Sight construction workers who live in Pahrump asked not to be identified at this time; however, they say it is true the water and sewer lines were trenched and pipes were installed. However, they maintain Piazza could not - or would not - come up with the funds to finish either job.

One of the men also revealed another obstacle that must be addressed before flush toilets could be installed. An engineering soil report found the site slated for a septic tank and leach field was not acceptable due to tough ground conditions.

The former employees further allege waterlines underneath phase one have never been connected to the facility's well. To this day, water coolers used on the ranges during classes are filled from a water hose connected to the well. It is the same water used to fill the facility's water truck for dust suppression.

The men claimed no sand or other bedding material was placed under the water or sewer pipes and allege the fire hydrant in front of the impressive 8,300 square foot classroom has never been hooked up to the well.

The State Fire Marshal's Office has not yet commented on the fire hydrant, but a spokesman did say the classroom - which is currently in use - has not been issued a certificate of occupancy.

The flyer was correct in saying electricity had been extended to the facility. The construction office and classroom, as well as most ranges have power, although the outdoor lighting for night classes is run on gas-powered generators.

In addition to announcing electricity, water and real bathrooms, the July 11, 2002 mailing from Piazza to members announced the beginning of construction of phase two and development of roads into phase three, where home parcels had been assigned to platinum members.

Pete Wallace of Pahrump, a former employee who ran the bulldozer and grader on the construction crew, said there is only one roughly graded road into the home sites.

More than three years ago, KLAS TV in Las Vegas aired a two-part feature on Front Sight. The Eye Witness news team reported: " two to three years, this will be home to hundreds. There will be homes, a shopping center, even a K through 12 school."

There is no sign of water being brought into phase three. No lots are graded. Former staff members, at least one of whom is part of the class represented in the federal lawsuit, say a wastewater treatment plant must be built, yet they wonder if talks have been initiated with the Public Utilities Commission.

Adding to the confusion, information on Front Sight's Web site this week includes a statement beginning with these words: "When Phase 1 is completed later this year ..."

Editor's note: The class action lawsuit filed against Front Sight Firearms can be accessed online at