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'Rehab Mogul' Charged With Sexual Assault, Fraud And Identify Theft

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Christopher Bathum, the former owner of an expansive rehab network, has been arrested on suspicion of numerous counts of sexual assault, fraud and grand theft. Christopher Bathum, 55, who touted himself as the #rehabmogul, ran Community Recovery Los Angeles (CRLA). The company consisted of about 20 facilities and sober houses and about 200 clients, spread out among Orange County, L.A. County and Colorado. He was sued in February by three women, all former clients, who accused him of making inappropriate advances and manipulating them as they sought treatment for addiction.

According to a release from the L.A. County Sheriff's Department, detectives began investigating Bathum in May, and arrested him on Thursday on numerous counts of sexual assault. The alleged assaults took place over the course of four years, between 2012 and 2016 at Bathum's various facilities. Authorities are concerned that there may be other victims.

But the Sheriff's Department isn't the only authority looking into Bathum. Bathum and Kirsten Wallace, CRLA's CFO, have also been charged with numerous counts of grand theft and identity theft, according to a release from the California Department of Insurance.

The department raided 15 of Bathum's sober houses throughout L.A. and Orange counties, and has accused the pair of tricking people dealing with addiction into enacting in various "treatment marketing schemes." The department alleges that Bathum and Wallace would then using their clients' identities to buy health insurance policies without the victims' knowledge, and would continue to bill the insurance companies for treatment, even after the patients were no longer receiving it. They are accused of billing over $176 million in fraudulent claims.

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In a statement, Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones said, "Bathum and Wallace's alleged conspiracy victimized hundreds of people addicted to drugs and alcohol by keeping them in a never-ending cycle of treatment, addiction, and fraud—all the while lining their pockets with millions of dollars from allegedly fraudulent insurance claims."

The allegations of sexual assault against Bathum were extensively reported on by LA Weekly back in December of 2015.

One allegation surrounded a 21-year-old woman from Indiana who checked into Bathum's Malibu facility to kick her heroin and Oxycontin addiction. After a relapse, she said that Bathum came to her apartment and groped her, then convinced her to return to the clinic. When she woke up with him in her bed, she left rehab again. When she came by to pick up a check she'd earned doing administrative work for the facility, she said Bathum told her she would be "much better off giving me blow jobs rather than someone on Skid Row who you don't know, who wouldn't pay you what you're worth."

That woman sued Bathum in 2010, and the lawsuit was settled for an undisclosed sum in 2011. In 2015, she lost her battle with addiction and died at age 27. Bathum denied her accusations of sexual assault to LA Weekly, calling her death "a f___g tragedy."

Yet she was only one of many women who accused Bathum of assault and manipulation. In the most recent suit, the women accuse Bathum of using drugs with them in hotel rooms and molesting them when they were high.

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According to the suit:

Bathum specializes in targeting young women who have suffered childhood traumas or sexual abuse and who are particularly vulnerable. Bathum used offers of "scholarships," "internships" and other rewards and inducements to young women to encourage them to trust Bathum and to permit Bathum and CRLA to misappropriate insurance money by billing for services which Bathum masqueraded as "treatment" but which involved him engaging in sexual and drug abuse towards Plaintiffs and other clients. Bathum would then abuse and betray that trust under the guise of providing "treatment" and "therapy" to these young women, by isolating them in settings where Bathum would introduce and use drugs in front of them, aggressively encourage them to take drugs despite his knowledge that they had entered CRLA and paid for services to avoid drugs, and then force sexual encounters and demand sexual favors in return for their being allowed to continue in the CRLA program.

It's worth noting that in California, outpatient and sober living facilities do not need a license to operate. Bathum, according to LA Weekly, is not licensed in anything save hypnotherapy. This particular case bears a similarity to another in San Diego, involving an evangelical church called Rock Church. Buzzfeed spoke to women who had accused the church's addiction-recovery minister of sexually harassing them while they were seeking help in May of 2014.

Anyone with information about Christopher Bathum should contact the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department's Special Victims Bureau at 877-710-5273. Anonymous tips can be left via Crime Stoppers at 800-222-8477, or online via lacrimestoppers.org.