Former Malibu rehab owner Christopher Bathum has been convicted of sexually assaulting seven women patients at the rehabilitation centers he ran in Southern California. The self-described “Rehab Mogul” used to run 19 facilities in Malibu and Orange County until he was charged with sexual assault and insurance fraud.
It took a Los Angeles County jury only one day of deliberations to convict the 56-year-old on 31 criminal counts. Prosecutors claimed Bathum, the founder of the well-known Seasons Malibu, preyed on vulnerable female patients in his care. Charges included forcible rape, sexual penetration by foreign object, forcible oral copulation and sexual exploitation. Bathum was also found guilty of offering controlled substances, including methamphetamines and heroin, to clients. The victims, ranging in age from their 20s to 30s, said they were given drugs even though they were trying to recover from their addictions at his upscale facilities and sober living homes. The victims also claim they were hindered from fighting off the attacks because they were under the influence of drugs.
Many of the crimes occurred in Malibu between 2014-16 at outpatient clinics founded by the rehab operator. Bathum was arrested in November 2016. According to prosecutors, the owner of the “Community Recovery” treatment facilities in Malibu, Orange County and Colorado partied with patients and taught them how to pass drug tests. Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Reinhold Mueller told a jury in closing arguments that the victims “were easy targets.”
In an expose two years ago on ABC TV’s “20/20” news magazine, one alleged victim, Amanda Jester, came forward and on camera claimed that Bathum sexually assaulted her in a sweat lodge at one of his Malibu facilities and later in a hotel room. Jester explained her vulnerability, saying, “I have no credit card, no money, no cell phone—I felt I had no choice.”
In Bathum’s defense, his attorney Carlo A. Spiga downplayed the assault charges leveled against his client and questioned the credibility of some of the women who testified against him.
While convicted on 31 charges, Bathum was acquitted on 11 other counts including sexual exploitation and one count of offering a controlled substance—methamphetamine. The jury was deadlocked on one count of rape by use of drugs and two other accounts of sexual assault.
Charges against Bathum also included insurance fraud. He was accused of billing $176 million in an elaborate scam. Prosecutors say he used patient IDs to buy health coverage for his patients without their consent or knowledge and then billed insurance companies for treatments that were never given.
Seasons Malibu has claimed it cut ties with Bathum years ago. According to the Washington Post, Bathum had at one point built an empire of lucrative drug addiction treatment facilities despite the fact he held no license in drug counseling and no college degree. His luxury rehab centers were known for extravagant therapies including yoga, excursions, pools and private chefs.
Bathum now faces up to 65 years in state prison and must register as a sex offender for his lifetime. Defense attorneys have not indicated whether they will appeal. Bathum’s sentencing is scheduled for April 17.