Christopher Bathum
Christopher Bathum

The ex-operator of more than a dozen Southland drug treatment and rehabilitation facilities pleaded not guilty Monday to nearly 100 felony counts accusing him of sexually assaulting nine patients and masterminding a $175 million billing scheme.

Christopher Bathum, 55, formerly owned and operated 13 Community Recovery treatment centers in Los Angeles County and Orange County, as well as six in the state of Colorado, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

Bathum is accused of sexually assaulting female patients in their 20s and 30s, giving some of them drugs as they struggled to overcome their addiction. Several of the alleged assaults happened at the rehab facilities, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.

He is charged with 27 counts of sexual exploitation; 12 counts of furnishing controlled substances, including cocaine, methamphetamine and heroin; 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.

In a separate filing, Bathum and his chief financial officer, Kirsten Wallace, 43, are each charged with 31 counts of money laundering, eight counts of grand theft, six counts of identity theft and five counts of insurance fraud.

Bail was set at $2 million for both defendants, who pleaded not guilty to all counts.

If convicted as charged in the assault case, Bathum faces up to life in prison. He and Wallace each face up to 53 years in prison if found guilty of the healthcare fraud charges, according to the District Attorney’s Office.

Prosecutors allege the two obtained health insurance policies for clients without their knowledge, billed insurance companies for patients no longer receiving treatment and billed for services never provided, racking up a total of $175 million in fraudulent charges between June 2012 and December 2015.

About $44 million was paid out by five insurance companies, including Anthem Blue Cross, Blue Shield, Cigna, Health Net and Humana, before the fraud was suspected, according to the District Attorney’s Office and state Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones.

“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,” Jones said in a statement issued last week when the arrests were made.

He indicated more arrests may be forthcoming.

“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,” Jones said.

Detectives who began investigating the allegations of sexual assault in May said last week they believe others may have been victimized and urged anyone with information on the case to call the Special Victims Bureau at (877) 710-5273, or Crime Stoppers at (800) 222-TIPS.

–City News Service 

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