Sex, relapse and fraud in unsober sober homes

Addicted patients given drugs, sexually abused in $175-million rehab ripoff

2020 Hall of Shame

Christopher Bathum styled himself as the “Rehab Mogul” — a healing guru with an almost cult-like following among his addicted residents. He built a fast-growing network of sober homes called Community Recovery, mostly in the Los Angeles area. 

Bathum promised thousands of addicted residents a fighting chance to turn their lives around, and free themselves from the death grip of drugs and alcohol.

Instead Bathum sexually assaulted at least seven women under his care — giving them the very drugs they desperately needed to escape. He also handed out drugs to vulnerable patients in a $175-million rehab binge of betrayal and false insurance billings.

Forced patients to relapse

Bathum’s get-rich insurance rehab racket: Force patients to relapse. Bathum trapped patients in a continuous cycle of addiction and rehab. That allowed him to keep falsely billing their health insurers for bogus and inflated addiction treatment.

His rehab empire was strategically built to falsely bill insurers. His treatment centers had hundreds of beds, medical clinics and a drug-testing lab. All the while, he deliberately undermined the sobriety and wellbeing of desperate patients who trusted them with their lives.

Bathum secretly bought several health policies for many patients to increase his fraudulent insurance billings. He billed their insurers for rehab he never provided. Bathum also kept charging insurers after patients left treatment. Inflated claims for real and bogus urine testing — literally liquid gold — were especially lucrative.

California’s booming rehab industry was a perfect fit for Bathum’s money-making instincts. He even wrote a widely read psychotherapy book. Yet Bathum brought many patients misery and addiction, even as he built a large client following.

Traded sex for rehab perks

Styling himself as a father figure to female patients in their 20s and 30s, Bathum traded sex for perks such as internships, company cars and access to iPhones.

Drugs were another benefit. Bathum encouraged some patients to take drugs, took drugs with them, and even taught patients how to beat drug tests. The insurance money poured in; he received $44 million of the $175 million he billed. 

Remarkably, Bathum had no healthcare credentials. He was a pool cleaner before entering the drug rehab business. Bathum skipped college, and invented his credentials as a psychotherapist. He also had a serious drug problem — meth and heroin. He overdosed in a hotel room while shooting drugs with his own patients.

Bathum was handed nearly 53 years in state prison for sexual assault, and 20 years for the insurance scheme. The case was a triumph for the Los Angeles County Sheriff and DA — and California insurance department.