Rehab center owner pleads no contest in $175M billing scam

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The founder of a Los Angeles sober-living facility is facing 20 years in prison for running a $175 million phony health care billing scheme.

Christopher Bathum pleaded no contest Monday to 14 felony counts of grand theft, insurance fraud, identity theft and money laundering, the Los Angeles County district attorney's office announced.

Bathum, who once described himself as “the rehab mogul,” ran 13 Community Recovery drug and alcohol treatment centers in Los Angeles and Orange counties and six in Colorado.

He used patient information to obtain health insurance policies in their names without their knowledge, then billed insurance companies for services that were never provided, including services for former clients after their treatment ended, prosecutors said.

He and his co-defendant billed insurers for $175 million and received about $44 million.

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The co-defendant, Kirsten Wallace, was sentenced to 11 years in prison in 2018 after pleading no contest to 46 felony counts.

The 58-year-old Bathum is scheduled for sentencing in February and under the plea agreement faces 20 years in prison, the county DA's office said.

He also awaits sentencing after being convicted last year of sexually assaulting seven women patients at his facilities. Prosecutors said Bathum provided patients with drugs as they battled addiction and then assaulted them while they were under the influence.

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