The founder of a chain of Southern California drug treatment centers has been convicted of sexually assaulting seven female patients after plying them with drugs, authorities said.
Christopher Bathum, 56, was found guilty by a jury on Monday of 31 counts, including forcible rape, sexual penetration by foreign object, forcible oral copulation and sexual exploitation, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced.
Prosecutors said Bathum, who owned and operated 13 Community Recovery drug treatment centers in California and six others in Colorado, victimized female patients ranging in age from their early 20s to their early 30s between 2014 and 2016 after giving them drugs as they sought to overcome their addictions. Some of the assaults took place inside the facilities he ran.
“They were easy targets,” Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Reinhold Mueller said during closing arguments, according to the Ocean County Register. “They were perfect victims.”
A jury of five men and six women acquitted Bathum, a self-proclaimed “rehab mogul,” of 11 counts of sexual exploitation and one count of offering a controlled substance. The panel was deadlocked on three other charges, including rape by use of drugs and two counts of sexual penetration by a foreign object, according to newspaper.
Prosecutors said Bathum used drugs with some of his patients and instructed them how to beat drug tests. He also offered some of the young women special perks like internships, access to company cars and iPhones in return for sex.
Bathum’s attorney, Carlo Spiga, downplayed the allegations, characterizing them as consensual encounters and part of a “character attack” on his client. Spiga also told the jury during trial that at least one of the women “knew what she was doing at all times” while with Bathum, according to the newspaper.
“How many of them were hitting him up for money?” Spiga also asked jurors.
Bathum now faces up to 65 years in prison when he’s expected to be sentenced next month and a lifetime registration as a sex offender. He’s scheduled to appear in court Tuesday for a separate money laundering and insurance fraud case that prosecutors allege involves up to $175 million in fake claims.