A California “rehab mogul” has been charged with allegedly sexually assaulting nine female patients, prosecutors said Monday — and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office believes there could be more victims.
Christopher Bathum, who founded 19 drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers, was taken into custody Thursday after a raid of his home and more than a dozen locations in Los Angeles and Orange counties in California, PEOPLE confirms. (Bathum, 55, ran treatment centers there and in Colorado.)
He is charged with 27 counts of sexual exploitation and 12 counts of furnishing controlled substances, as well as three counts of sexual penetration by a foreign object, two counts of forcible oral copulation and one count each of forcible rape and rape of an intoxicated person.
The self-described “mogul” and his company CFO, Kirsten Wallace, are also accused of multiple felony counts of grand theft, money laundering, insurance fraud and identity theft for allegedly conspiring to defraud patients and health insurers such as Anthem Blue Cross, Blue Shield, Cigna, Health Net and Humana.
Approximately $44 million was ultimately paid out by the five insurers after they were fraudulently billed for $175 million, prosecutors allege.
Bathum and Wallace are each charged in that case with eight counts of grand theft, six counts of identity theft, five counts of insurance fraud and 31 counts of money laundering.
The sheriff’s department began its investigation in May after authorities were tipped off to allegations of sexual misconduct at Bathum’s Community Recovery treatment facilities dating back as far as 2012. Bathum’s alleged victims range in age from 20s to early 30s, prosecutors said.
“Christopher loves to save his patients’ lives from the clutches of addiction,” Bathum’s website, christopherbathum.co, states. “He understands what a successful treatment must be like because he has helped others achieve it.”
Not so, authorities say.
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“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,” California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones said in a statement.
“This is likely the first wave of indictments and charges in an ongoing investigation into one of the largest health insurance fraud cases in California.”
Authorities say their alleged scheme involved stealing patient identities and buying health insurance policies for patients without their knowledge. Bathum allegedly continued to bill insurance companies even after his patient’s treatment was finished, and prosecutors allege the bulk of the fraudulent billing was for services that were never provided.
In June, ABC’s 20/20 aired an episode on Bathum and the accusations leveled against him in which several women claimed he coerced them to have sex in exchange for drugs — sexually assaulting them and disrupting their recovery.
One of the women, Amanda Jester, said that Bathum allegedly sexually assaulted her in a sweat lodge at his Malibu, California, facility and later in a Four Seasons hotel room.
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“I have no credit card, no money, no cellphone — I felt like I had no choice,” she told 20/20.
Another woman alleged Bathum overdosed on heroin and methamphetamine after a drug-fueled night at a Malibu motel with her and two of his other clients.
But Bathum denied all of their claims to ABC.
He remains in jail and is scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office. It was not immediately clear if he has retained an attorney ahead of his arraignment.
Wallace also remains in custody, according to state insurance officials. She will be arraigned Tuesday, but it’s not clear if she has retained an attorney ahead of her court appearance.
The L.A. sheriff is asking for the public’s assistance in identifying additional victims. Anyone with information is asked to contact the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Special Victims Bureau at 877-710-5273.