Rehab Mogul Scrambles to Reorganize His Sober Living Chain

The front page of the Community Recovery website
The front page of the Community Recovery website

It's been two months since we checked in on Chris Bathum, aka the "Rehab Mogul," owner of Community Recovery Los Angeles, a chain of more than 20 sober-living homes and outpatient clinics treating drug addicts and alcoholics.

Bathum has been accused of sexually assaulting some of his female clients and filing hundreds of fraudulent insurance claims. After he was arrested for drug possession, in June, Community Recovery Los Angeles (or CRLA) made a startling announcement: Bathum had resigned as chairman of the board.

Except he was still very much in the picture, according to numerous accounts of current and former CRLA employees, who say that Bathum simply moved his office, from behind the coffee shop he owns — Grounded Cafe on Melrose — across the street, to one of the sober-living homes he operates. 

In the last few months, the California Department of Health has issued a number of cease-and-desist letters against CRLA houses, accusing them of being unlicensed drug and alcohol treatment centers. Last week, a judge granted an injunction against two CRLA facilities — on Melrose and in Calabasas — which orders them to stop providing treatment. 

And Bathum is being investigated for possible criminal charges, according to one law enforcement agent and numerous others who say they've spoken with police.

"There’s a lot of detectives interviewing a ton of people," says Alan Schimmel, an attorney representing a number of clients who are suing Bathum. "They are building a case, finally."

Then, a few weeks ago, a letter went out to employees announcing there would be mass layoffs. The letter, signed by Bathum himself and dated Aug. 18, reads in part:

Dear Valued Staff,

The reduction of payment from health insurance companies has hit CRLA and the entire industry quite hard, and while we have been striving to adjust for it without layoffs we have come to that place in the road. 

Unfortunately, this Friday, August 19, 2016, is the last day we can pay you for the work you have done well and with commitment.

Christopher Bathum at Community Recovery headquarters in Hollywood
Christopher Bathum at Community Recovery headquarters in Hollywood
Photo by Ted Soqui

So was this the end of Bathum's empire?

Not exactly. Some employees were being asked to stay on, and the company was changing its name to "Commonwealth Global."

So we asked the PR geniuses who work for CRLA what was going on, and we got back what must be one of the worst press releases we've ever seen, reading in part:

Commonwealth Global, Los Angeles based health care organization buys Community Recovery Inc(CRLA) for an undisclosed amount.

Commonwealth Global spokesperson Vanessa Davis today announced the purchase last week of Community Recovery Inc. a Los Angeles based behavioral health group that had been growing rapidly until into 2016.

“CQ Management saw the cost cutting measures just employed and decided to support the business model full speed ahead.” said Davis.

Davis also noted that "Bathum himself refused an offer to continue on."

There were a number of suspicious things about this press release, starting with the bad grammar and odd syntax. First, the new Commonwealth Global logo is nearly identical to the old Community Recovery logo:

Left: Commonwealth Recovery logo; right: CRLA logo
Left: Commonwealth Recovery logo; right: CRLA logo

And then there was the fact that the domain name commonwealthglobal.net was registered on Aug. 24, 2016 – two days before the press release was sent out. 

The CRLA website still has its old URL, but the home page reads "Commonwealth Global," and depicts the sun peaking out from behind the Earth. A very similar image just happens to appear on Chris Bathum's Facebook page:

Rehab Mogul Scrambles to Reorganize His Sober Living Chain
Chris Bathum's Facebook page
The front page of the Community Recovery website
The front page of the Community Recovery website

Finally, the CEO of Commonwealth Global is, according to its website, Kirsten Wallace — the CEO of Community Recovery Los Angeles.

In fact, on the Secretary of State's website, there is no record of a company called "Commonwealth Global" being authorized to do business in California.

Grounded Cafe, meanwhile, appears to be closed — "temporarily," according to a handwritten sign taped to its front door. 

Grounded Cafe, the CRLA–owned coffee shop on Melrose, on Saturday had a handwritten sign taped to the front door that reads "temporarily closed."EXPAND
Grounded Cafe, the CRLA–owned coffee shop on Melrose, on Saturday had a handwritten sign taped to the front door that reads "temporarily closed."
Hillel Aron

Other CRLA houses in Orange County and Colorado have, according to former employees, been abandoned, with clients more or lest left to fend for themselves. In Denver, Channel 7's Jaclyn Allen has been tracking Bathum for longer than even we have; she filed an astonishing report Monday night in which clients and staff told her Bathum had pulled out of Colorado and former CRLA clients were squatting in the old houses.

The same thing may be happening in California. According to screenshots of CRLA's internal communication system, Basecamp, obtained by L.A. Weekly, when one staff member visited CRLA's Peralta House, in Anaheim, he found "an incredibly dirty open house."

One client, the staff member reported, "had locked himself in the med room smashing open the med cabinet, disconnecting and smashing the camera system pulling them out of their housings. [The client] was belligerent saying nobody is going to take him out of 'his house' and advised other clients to stay there as well. I offered to bring any of the clients who were at Peralta to West Adams to detox safely but they all refused. The house is destroyed."


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