Self-proclaimed "rehab mogul" Christopher Bathum has been convicted in Los Angeles of sexually assaulting seven female patients at his drug treatment facilities.
Bathum had gone through years of sexual misconduct allegations and mounting lawsuits after founding a chain of more than a dozen recovery centers in Southern California and Colorado, according to BuzzFeed. On Monday, he was found of 31 criminal counts that included sexual assault, rape, sexual penetration by foreign object, forcible oral copulation, and sexual exploitation, said the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office.
According to prosecutors, Bathum's MO was to call himself a mentor, father figure and friend to those who lived in his facilities and then he "preyed" upon the young, vulnerable women who are battling drug addiction and alcoholism. Despite being a convicted felon with no background in health care, he ran his facilities from at least 2014 to 2016 and during this time plied the women with drugs even though they were there in order to try to cure their addictions, prosecutors said. He used heroin and methamphetamine on these women and also got high with some patients, taught them how to beat drug tests, and would then sexually assault them while they were high too.
"They were easy targets," said Deputy District Attorney Reinhold Muller in his closing statement after detailing the way that Bathum would shower the women with special attention, such as doling out iPhones, letting them use company cars, setting them up in hotel rooms and giving them internships and scholarships to win their trust, according to the Orange County Register. "They were perfect victims."
This is not the first legal entanglement that Bathum's business has faced. In the past, he and his business were involved in at least 50 lawsuits with accusations ranging from civil harassment to fraud and wrongful termination. He currently is also facing a separate case that alleges that he and his former chief financial officer, Kirsten Wallace, were running a $175 million health care billing scheme.
"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," state Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones said, according to a press release from the California Department of Insurance.
Bathum has always repeatedly and emphatically denied all allegations against him and, during this trial, his attorney downplayed the allegations and attempted to discredit the accusers. However, in the end, the Los Angeles jury acquitted Bathum of a dozen counts, deadlocked on three others, and found him guilty on 31 charges. He will be sentenced in April and faces up to 65 years in prison.
[Photo: Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department]
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