LOS ANGELES (CN) – A state court judge said Wednesday there is enough evidence to try the founder of a drug and alcohol treatment center on charges he sexually assaulted multiple women who came to his facility seeking help.
Fifteen alleged victims testified during preliminary hearings this week at Los Angeles County Superior Court. Judge Mary Lou Villar ruled Wednesday that the prosecution had done enough to support the rape charges in the case.
The woman had said “in unison” that Bathum had preyed on them, Villar said in her courtroom in downtown LA. There was evidence that he plied them with drugs while in a position of trust at the rehab center, sexually exploited them and that they did not give their consent, she said.
The judge ordered Bathum, who appeared in court wearing orange jail garb, to return to court at 8:30 a.m. on June 7 to be arraigned.
Prosecutors said they expect the trial to last six or seven weeks.
Late last year, prosecutors charged Bathum on 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. Prosecutors also charged Bathum on 27 counts of sexual exploitation and 12 counts of furnishing controlled substances, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office said in November.
The DA said last year that Bathum faces life in state prison if convicted. Prosecutors have separately charged Bathum in a $175 million fraudulent health care billing scheme.
Over a period of three years beginning in 2013, Batham is suspected of preying on female addicts under his care and sexually assaulting them at the treatment centers he ran. The women were in their 20s and 30s, according to prosecutors.
Bathum has faced civil claims from women who attended the facility, Community Recovery of Los Angeles. He also owned and operated other businesses in Southern California and Colorado, according to prosecutors.
In a civil lawsuit filed last year, two women said Bathum had offered his services to vulnerable young women and persuaded them that he could 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 April 6, 2016, lawsuit states.
His chief financial officer Kirsten Wallace is a co-defendant in the fraud case. County prosecutors say that Bathum and Wallace used clients’ personal information to open health insurance policies under their names and without their knowledge, and lied to insurers about the circumstances surrounding their treatment.
The defendants allegedly billed for patients who had ended treatment and charged $175 million mostly for treatment they never gave patients. Five insurers paid out roughly $44 million in claims, the DA’s office said last year.
Bathum and Wallace each face up to 53 years in prison if convicted on the insurance fraud charges.