A Los Angeles jury convicted a self-proclaimed “rehab mogul” of sexually assaulting seven female patients at his drug treatment facilities after years of numerous allegations and lawsuits.
The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office said a panel found Christopher Bathum guilty of 31 criminal counts, including forcible rape, sexual penetration by foreign object, forcible oral copulation, and sexual exploitation.
The 56-year-old — who founded and ran 13 Community Recovery treatment centers in Southern California, as well as 6 in Colorado — touted himself as a mentor and father figure to the patients of his facilities.
He was anything but that, as prosecutors revealed he “preyed” on the young, vulnerable women who came to him for help with their addictions to drugs and alcohol.
Court docs reveal that he showered the women, mostly in their ‘20s and early ‘30s, with gifts like iPhones, the use of company cars, and hotel rooms. He would also hook them up with internships and scholarships to build trust.
This was all a grooming technique, prosecutors said, as Bathum would also supply the women with drugs, including heroin and crystal meth, as they battled addiction, and then would sexually assault them while they were under the influence.
The fraud, who somehow founded his chain of rehab facilities despite having no drug counseling license or college degree, would also get high with some patients and teach them how to beat drug tests.
But it gets even worse. Bathum’s business was embroidered in at least 50 lawsuits over the years, being accused of civil harassment, fraud, and running a $175 million health care billing scheme.
In that case, Bathum and his former chief financial officer Kirsten Wallace are accused of stealing patient identifiers to buy health insurance policies without their knowledge, and continuing to bill insurance companies after patients’ had ended treatment.
His more recent sexual abuse case included multiple lawsuits filed by his former patients, two of which claimed he would isolate and target them and other women, “moving them around to isolated hotel rooms and remote locations, encouraging them to use drugs with him, and sexually molesting them when they were high and/or incapable of consent.”
Additional former clients that filed lawsuits include Amanda Jester, who claimed the rehab owner molested her during a meditation in a sweat lodge; and Dana Reardon, who alleged that Bathum gave her crystal meth and heroin, made her watch him have sex with two other women, and “forced his fingers” into her vagina “despite her protests.”
Bathum has vehemently denied all allegations against him. His attorney tried to discredit the accusers during the trial, suggesting that the women were after his money.
The jury, however, disagreed. While Bathum was acquitted of a dozen counts and deadlocked on three others, he was found guilty on the rest of the 31 charges. He faces up to 65 years in prison and will be sentenced in April.
[Image via Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.]
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