The Rehab Guru Whose Clients Claim They Were Used as Drugged-Up Sex Slaves
Two women came to Christopher Bathum's recovery program to get clean. According to their lawsuit, they ended up in hotel rooms around Los Angeles supplying Bathum with heroin, meth, and sex.
All illustrations by Shawna X
On the surface, Chris Bathum appears to be a successful medical practitioner. He runs a lucrative drug rehabilitation program in Malibu, he lives in a leafy and affluent suburb of Los Angeles, he has four children, and even drives a Tesla.
But if you search for the name Christopher Bathum in the files of the Santa Monica courthouse you'll find that the drug rehab owner is embroiled in over 50 lawsuits, the accusations in those suits ranging from fraud to pumping his female clients full of hard drugs to prey upon them sexually.
The newest batch of allegations against Bathum come from two half-sisters who entered Bathum's rehab in hopes of overcoming their own drug addiction but instead were kept as "secret sex slaves" in hotel rooms around Los Angeles, where they had a steady supply of heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine all funded and encouraged by Bathum.
One of the plaintiffs, Jennifer Irick, was first admitted to Bathum's Community Recovery Los Angeles in November of 2013. For a cost of $9,500, Irick was led to believe Community Recovery would help wean her off an addiction to benzodiazepines.
Court documents say he told her how he had 'his eye on her from the beginning,' and asked her to let 'him take care of her for a while.'
Per the complaint, after 60 days of sobriety, Bathum allowed Irick to return to her home in Florida and retrieve her car. When she arrived back to Los Angeles in February of 2014, she stayed at the rehab (paid for by her insurance) and started working as Bathum's personal assistant, chauffeuring him around the city.
Stephanie Johnston arrived at CRLA from Ohio at around the same time Irick returned from Florida. Court documents explain how Johnston and Irick are half-sisters, and how Johnston frequently joined Irick and Bathum on their errands around LA. Bathum allegedly treated the women to shopping excursions, purchased them gifts, and took them for "fast drives" in his white Tesla.
The three also spent time together in intimate therapy sessions. The sessions, called "trauma groups" or "parent groups" were where Bathum encouraged attendants to divulge "private and painful information." According to the legal complaint, Bathum used these sessions to extract information from women about past physical and emotional abuse, especially as children.
Read more: Why More Women Are Having Sex on Drugs
After learning that Irick herself felt traumatized from her past employment as a stripper, Irick claims that's when Bathum began to make advances on her. Court documents say he told her how he had "his eye on her from the beginning," and asked her to let "him take care of her for a while." When Irick drove Bathum home in the evenings, he supposedly often requested that Irick pull off onto a back road near his house.
There, Bathum asked Irick perform lap dances for him, and persuaded Irick to let him hypnotize her. Per court documents, hypnosis consisted of Bathum sitting behind Irick inside the car while groping her and mumbling comforting words into her ears. Bathum eventually graduated to demanding intercourse and oral sex. In the complaint, Irick claims she felt she had no other option, so she obliged and had sex with Bathum at his house in Agoura Hills.
Bathum began approving overnight passes for both Johnston and Irick, despite the vocal opposition of other CRLA staff. Bathum rented hotel rooms for the sisters, giving them a chance to take full advantage of their new overnight privileges. Court documents note the first room was in a Venice Beach hotel, where Bathum allegedly had sex with Johnston without her consent that first night after an evening of heavy drinking.
In April of 2014, Bathum rented another room at the W Hotel, in Hollywood. There, he allegedly supplied Irick and Johnston with alcohol and methamphetamine. According to the complaint, "the three drank, did meth, and then engaged in a drug fueled threesome."
Irick and Johnston were kicked out of CRLA the following day. Bathum then put the two up in room at a Calabasas hotel on his own expense. It was the sisters' home for the next few weeks. There, Bathum allegedly provided them with money specifically to purchase heroin and cocaine, and continued to have sex with them when he visited.
In an attempt to get clean, the sisters decided to go to a non-CRLA sober living house after a few weeks. Bathum picked up the tab, however, and the two women were kicked out after five days for drinking.
According to the complaint, Bathum told her he was going to take her on a 'tour' of the Malibu facility, and led Johnston up a hidden staircase to a hidden room.
According to the complaint, Bathum rented another hotel room, explaining how he would continue billing their insurance even though they were no longer with CRLA. After a few days, the women explained to Bathum they wanted to return home. Bathum gave them money for their trip, and sent them more money after they returned home.
Johnston, however, returned to CRLA in July of 2014. Upon her arrival, Bathum started giving her money again, and allegedly acted as if she owed him sexual favors. Two weeks after her arrival, Bathum called Johnston to his office at a Malibu facility. According to the complaint, Bathum told her he was going to take her on a "tour" of the Malibu facility, and led Johnston up a hidden staircase to a hidden room.
The two returned to Bathum's office. Bathum locked the door behind him as they entered and allegedly said that only one other person had a key to his office. He lead Johnston into a closet adjacent to his office, furnished only with a mattress pad directly on the floor. Bathum said he used the pad for "naps," lay down on the pad, and began coaxing Johnston to join him. The complaint details that Johnston did not want to be there. When Bathum began pressuring her for oral sex, she gave in to his wishes, believing it was the most expedient means to an exit.
Following the encounter, Johnston purchased a plane ticket back to Ohio, and told CRLA staff that Johnston had touched her and that she could no longer stay at CRLA.
When Broadly reached out to speak to Bathum about the allegations his attorney, Stanley Lieber, responded by phone saying:
With these horrible allegations—you would think that if any of them were true some criminal goverment agency would have followed up and filed charges, and that has not happen. I don't know if the FBI was contacted but they aren't filing any thing, the District Attorney hasn't filed anything.You know these people are being believed, but they're drug addicts. When you're a drug addict which— all of them were at one point but are hopefully not now—one thing is that you lie about lots of things to get drugs. And they're lying now, according to Mr Bathum.
However, the claims in this newest suit mirror another former client's claims.
In 2009, Julie Hluchota first encountered Bathum when she flew from Indiana to Los Angeles and checked into his Seasons rehab clinic. Hluchota had a heroin and Oxycontin habit, and wanted to quit. According to a lawsuit later filed by Hluchota, Bathum told her on her first night that he would "always take care of her." Hluchota spent a few months in treatment at Seasons before Bathum hired her as an administrative employee. She began using heroin again after two months, and left Seasons. Bathum showed up to her house one day and, according to her lawsuit, "began stroking [Hluchota's] hair and rubbing her shoulders. Bathum began telling [Hluchota] that if she came back, he 'would take good care of her.'" He tried to slip his hand into her pants shortly thereafter, before she agreed to return to Seasons.
The next day, back at Seasons, Hluchota woke to Bathum kissing her in bed. Hluchota left Seasons the day after, and filed a lawsuit against Bathum for fraud and sexual battery. Bathum settled her lawsuit for an undisclosed amount of money. Hluchota overdosed in July of 2015.
According to LA Weekly, Bathum and his rehab companies are under investigation by the FBI, LAPD, the LA County District Attorney's Office, the California Department of Health Care Services, as well as nearly every major insurance provider in the state of California. The story also revealed how eight former CRLA members had died of drug-related causes, with five cases in 2015 alone.
Earlier this year, a former CRLA employee named Roseann Stahl sued Bathum for wrongful termination. Her complaint, filed in March of 2016, claims Bathum and other CRLA employees fired her after she began investigating claims of drug and sexual abuse by Bathum.
Bathum is also a convicted felon. In 2002, he pleaded guilty to four counts of mail and wire fraud for selling computers and exercise equipment on eBay that he never delivered. Court records reflect that he had to pay 23 victims a total of $29,733.
Perhaps most damning is the fact that Bathum lacks any formal licensing to be a drug and rehabilitation counselor. Court documents stipulate how his only official certification is in hypnotherapy. Yet through a series of legal loopholes, Bathum is allowed to market and profit off purported drug therapy centers.
After Hlouchta's death, her lawyer told the LA Weekly, "People like Bathum can get away with stuff, because who's going to believe a drug addict?"