Clients Call LA Rehab Guru an Abuser

     SANTA MONICA (CN) – The founder of a Los Angeles addiction treatment center gave his clients drugs and alcohol and molested them, two women claim in a sexual battery lawsuit.
     Stephanie Nicole Johnston and Jennifer Irick sued Christopher Bathum and Community Recovery Inc., on April 6 in Superior Court.
     “Bathum has created an illegal enterprise that engages in insurance and entitlement fraud, identity theft, drug dealing, false imprisonment, sexual assault and abuse, among other independently wrongful acts, to financially enrich Bathum and his associates and to feed Bathum’s depraved appetite for drugs and young women to sexually victimize,” Johnston and Irick say on the third page of the 28-page lawsuit.
     Bathum did not respond to an emailed request for comment through the Community Recovery website. He did not respond to telephone requests for an interview.     
     The new lawsuit resembles a complaint filed in the same court in March, by former Bathum client and employee Roseann Stahl. Stahl claims in that she saw “proof” that Bathum and his company “were engaging in insurance fraud.” She said she was wrongfully fired after she discovered Bathum was taking drugs and having sex with clients.
     Stahl, like Johnston and Irick, is represented by Alan Schimmel, with Schimmel & Parks, of Sherman Oaks. Both lawsuits refer to Community Recovery as CRLA.
     In the new law complaint, Johnston and Irick say Bathum has “a history” of offering his services to vulnerable young women by persuading them that he can help them recover from alcohol or drug addiction.
     “Yet contrary to these representations, Bathum isolated and targeted plaintiffs and other women to prey on their addictions by using and supplying drugs around them, moving them around to isolated hotel rooms and remote locations, encouraging them to use drugs with him, and sexually molesting them when they were high and/or incapable of consent,” the complaint states.
     Johnston and Irick both say Bathum gave them drugs and sexually preyed on them.
     Johnston says Bathum took her and Irick to a hotel in April 2014, gave them alcohol and methamphetamine, “and then engaged in a drug-fueled threesome.”
     Irick claims Bathum sexually groped her and demanded “sex and blow jobs” and she “believed she had no other option but to say yes.”
     “Bathum repeatedly told Irick that this was the first time he had ever sexually engaged with a client and that Irick couldn’t tell anyone because it would hurt his CRLA program, and jeopardize the sobriety of his clients. Bathum would tell Irick that if she told anyone what was happening, the ‘people staying at CRLA would be homeless and have nowhere to go, and their sobriety was up to Irick,'” according to the complaint.
     She claims that more than once, “Bathum would have Irick take him home late, so that his wife would be gone and the nanny would have the kids, and Bathum would have sex with Irick in his home office.”
     He also gave her money, allowed her sister to go to Community Recovery for Free, paid $700 for both of them to get tattoos and while they did so, “sat between the two women and exclaimed that he couldn’t wait to have to ‘sister sandwich,'” according to the complaint.
     After leaving CRLA, Irick says, Blue Shield insurance contacted her and asked her “to give a statement about what she experienced as a client with Bathum.” She says in the lawsuit that she wrote and signed the statement, after which Bathum wrote her an email “promising her that if she recanted her statement, that he would give her money and allow her to get treatment for her addiction free of charge.”
     According to the complaint, Bathum’s email said in part: “We could make this work out really well for everyone. I am about to sue Blue Shield for a lot of shit.” After asking her “to explain how you were coerced and scared [by a man not involved in this lawsuit] and said x and y because of that” the email cited in the lawsuit offers her “a regular stipend and work when you wanted it, either in Florida or out here. I’m pretty sure if done right the support — fair and truthful only of course — would be worth at least 10K plus treatment over some time. for each.”
     Irick says she did send a statement recanting her allegations, as she was “desperate to get clean and sober,” after which Bathum sent her “emails with all CRLA staff cc’ed on the emails falsely claiming that Irick was trying to shake him down for money.”
     The drug allegations resemble allegations from Stahl’s lawsuit. In it, she says she took Bathum’s electric car to be charged in February 2015, and that while doing so, she “found drug paraphernalia including straws, a torch, and empty drug containers in the vehicle. Plaintiff also noted that a substance that appeared to be methamphetamine was all over the car.” She says she “documented what she saw with the camera on her cell phone.”
     Stahl sought damages and punitive damages for wrongful firing, fraud, intentional infliction of emotional distress and Labor Code violations.
     Johnston and Irick seek damages and punitive damages for sexual battery, fraud in the inducement, breach of contract, intentional tort, negligence, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
     Alan Schimmel with Schimmel & Parks in Sherman Oaks, did not respond to telephone requests for comment.

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