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Rehab Facility Operator Sued By Former Patients For Sexual Battery

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A man who runs a network of rehab facilities is being sued for allegedly sexually battering the same women who came to him for help. Chris Bathum runs Community Recovery Los Angeles (CRLA), which consists of over 20 facilities and houses about 200 clients. However, he's being sued by three former female patients who allege that he intentionally manipulated them, made inappropriate advances and committed fraud, LA Weekly reports.

The suit alleges that taking advantage of young, vulnerable women is a pattern for Bathum:

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.

The suit also claims that Bathum himself uses drugs—in particular, methamphetamine and heroin. In one instance, the suit claims that Bathum overdosed and had to go to the hospital after a three-day drug bender in a motel room, during which he had sex with two of his female patients and tried to have sex with a third. In another alleged instance, Bathum is accused of taking a patient into a sweat lodge for a guided meditation and molesting her.

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Barthum was also sued by a woman in 2010 for sexual battery. She was a 21-year-old patient at a rehab clinic in Malibu when she met Bathum. The suit alleged that Bathum once 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." The suit was settled out of court in 2011, and the woman died in 2015, apparently due to addiction.

That woman's lawyer, Alan Schimmel, is also acting as attorney for the three plaintiffs in the new suit. Bathum denies the allegations leveled against him and called Schimmel an "opportunist."

Bathum isn't licensed in anything except, apparently, hypnotherapy. Sober living and outpatient rehab facilities do not actually require the owner to have a license. Bathum is currently under investigation by the FBI, LAPD, L.A. County District Attorney, California Department of Health Care Services and several insurance companies, including Blue Shield. He was previously sued by an investor in a former rehab facility in Koreatown, which resulted in the facility going bankrupt, and pleaded guilty to four federal felony counts of mail and fraud for an eBay scheme in 2002.