'Rehab Mogul' shuts down sober living homes in Colorado

Staff, Clients: 'We've been abandoned'
Posted at 7:12 PM, Aug 29, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-29 21:26:16-04

DENVER -- The so-called 'Rehab Mogul' is closing shop in Colorado, leaving staff without paychecks and clients without a place to stay.

"Nobody really knows what's going on," said Estelle Watson, a client and staff member of Community Recovery Colorado who was packing her bags Monday. "I'm just in a really bad situation. I'm unemployed. I'm unpaid, and I'm homeless," said Watson.

That is the case for many clients and staff who came forward to Denver7 after owner Chris Bathum notified them last week that they no longer have jobs.

"All our checks were bouncing regularly," said Craig Cantrall, a former employee. "And now he's not saying that he's going to pay us."

Several staff members said they haven't been paid in weeks.

"It's left everybody that works there and was there for clients in a really tough spot," said Nicole Andon, another former CRC employee now speaking out against Bathum.

Andon said she and other staff have been working for free to try to help recovering addicts find a place to go because many feel abandoned.

"Because they're very early in recovery," said Andon. "Them trying to figure out what to do with themselves when they thought they had a stable environment. It's really detrimental to what they're trying to do with their lives."

In a 20/20 report two months ago, Bathum, a convicted felon, denied allegations of sexual battery and drug use with clients in California.

Since then, he was arrested on a complaint of "transporting and/or selling narcotics" according to the L.A. County Sheriff's Office, but for now the District Attorney has declined to file charges.

The California Health Department filed a lawsuit in June to shut down his operations, alleging he is operating "unlicensed alcoholism or drug-abuse recovery or treatment facilities."

For more than a year, Denver7 has exposed Bathum's unpermitted sober living homesin Colorado.

In emails to Denver7, Bathum wrote that he sold Community Recovery to Commonwealth Global, LLC.

He wrote that Arapahoe, one of the sober living houses, "will not be closed but will [be] turned over to local and resident management."

"All clients were welcome to stay for quite a while at any of the houses," Bathum wrote. "Those that wanted to are still in treatment."

That's a tough sell for the recovering addicts and staff who said they are being shown the door.

"The landlord is planning to start with the eviction as soon as possible now that she knows what's going on," said Watson.

Watson lives in a former Community Recovery Colorado Sober Living house for women at 1453 Race Street in Denver, which was also not permitted, according to City of Denver officials.

She said the landlord told her that the lease has been abandoned, and the six remaining clients there must be out by Sept.1.

"It just feels like we've been abandoned," said Watson. "Like all of our loyalty was for nothing. Like all of our hard work was for nothing."

Staff members don't believe that Bathum is getting out of the rehab mogul business.
"He's just getting it out of his name," said Andon. "Kirsten Wallace is the CEO for Commonwealth Global. She was also the CEO of Community Recovery. I think it's really sad to be taking clients into another bad situation where inevitably the same thing is going to happen."

Meanwhile, Cantrall said that male clients are essentially squatting at the Sober Living house at 2500 Arapahoe St., waiting to figure out what to do next.

"There are just some properties Bathum had, and they're not shut down, and people have squatter's rights, so they're still living there," said Cantrall. "It could get really bad there."


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