Former patient claims employee of Palm Desert rehab facility coerced him into sex for drugs
PALM DESERT, CA (FOX 11) - A former patient of a rehab facility in Palm Desert is suing after he claims an employee of the facility coerced him into sex acts in exchange for access to drugs during a time when he was having severe withdrawals.
FOX 11 is concealing the man's identity because he is an alleged sex victim, for purposes of this story we will call him Robert.
Robert told FOX 11 that in January 2017, he was a heroin addict living in New York. He wanted to get clean and have a better relationship with his daughter, so he sought treatment at Sovereign Health Group, a treatment center with locations in multiple states.
"I felt like I was dying," Robert said. "I don't know if anybody watching this has experienced heroin withdrawals, but it feels like you're dying from the inside out."
Robert ended up coming across the country to California, and began treatment at Sovereign Health's Palm Desert location, where he was housed in an apartment complex the company rented out. Robert told FOX 11 that his house manager at the time, the person responsible for keeping an eye on patients and controlling access in and out of the building, began to make sexual proposals to him after seeing his severe withdrawals.
"He proposed to me that if I would allow him to perform sexual acts and favors on me, that he would give me free drugs," Robert said. "I was in severe withdrawals at the time, and I was hurting pretty bad." The house manager at the time was a man named Adam Salcido. Robert is now suing Salcido and Sovereign Health over what he says happened next.
He provided FOX 11 an email which appears to be sent to him from Salcido in January, 2017.
It reads "Here's my number, if you let me s*** your d***, I'll buy you heroin! Don't tell anyone, cause I got suspended for asking the same question once already."
Robert told FOX 11 that as a straight man, he initially resisted Salcido's advances, but the withdrawals became too severe.
"There was one point where he had me trapped in the pantry in the kitchen, throwing himself at me, waving the money in my face, I made him give me half of the money before the oral sex," Robert said. "He saw a man in pain, imagine having the flu and the doctor waving the antidote or the medicine right in your face, you're gonna do anything you can to get yourself better.
Robert says after the sex, Salcido allowed him to leave the facility with the money so he could buy drugs from a homeless person at a nearby park.
After he got the drugs, Robert says he relapsed, and left the facility against medical advice.
"Unfortunately, my client was weak, he was fragile, and he felt he had no other choice but to comply," said attorney Doug Rochen of ACTS law firm. Rochen is representing Robert and filed the lawsuit on his behalf.
"They gave him money, they gave him access, all of that was at the cost of him having to feel as if he was gay, when he was a heterosexual male, by forcing him to receive oral sex."
According to the lawsuit Rochen fied on Robert's behalf, "the plaintiff was coerced and forced" all in exchange for $150, and Salcido told the plaintiff he had "previously paid $400" to another patient, also for sex, in exchange for drugs."
"He straight up told me that he was actually suspended for the exact same maneuver that he tried to pull on another patient that went there for help
"They gave him the money, they gave him access, all of that was at the cost of him having to feel as if he was gay, when he was a heterosexual male, by forcing him to receive oral sex."
Robert is suing Sovereign Health and Salcido for unlawful oral copulation and sexual battery, amongst other things.
The lawsuit alleges that Robert was "coerced and forced" all in exchange for $150 and that Salcido told Robert he had "previously paid $400" to another patient, also for sex, in exchange for drugs.
"He straight up told me that he was actually suspended for the exact same maneuver that he tried to pull on another patient that went there for help," Robert said.
Robert said he reported Salcido to the case manager at Sovereign Health's Palm Desert location, but nothing was ever done, and according to the lawsuit, that case manager was Salcido's cousin.
The lawsuit also alleges that Salcido was not a licensed counselor, therapist, or medical doctor, but was still hired as the house manager, and that Sovereign Health had been put on notice that Salcido previously preyed on vulnerable male patients during their stay at the facility and coerced patients into sexual acts.
"I am confident that Mr. Salcido had no certification or qualifications beyond the fact that he knew somebody at Sovereign Health, and he had a heartbeat," Rochen said.
FOX 11 was able to track down Salcido at a supermarket near Coachella while he was shopping with another man, and a FOX 11 undercover producer confronted him.
Salcido maintained a smirk on his face while claiming to not remember anything, said he had nothing to say, and then said "That's what you call a drug addict who makes up lies," before he was driven away by the other man.
For several days, FOX 11 reached out to Sovereign Health's attorneys for comment on this story, but we never received a response.
"Sovereign Health failed my client, because where they should have been providing mental health facilities and detox, they victimized him, and turned him into a drug seeking shell of a person," Rochen said. "They sexually abused him when he was most vulnerable."
Robert said Salcido's actions caused him to relapse back into drugs, he lost contact with his family, his life spiraled out of control again, and he says the trauma will stay with him for the rest of his life.
"He saw me hurting in my worst state, and he completely took advantage of the situation," he said. "It makes me feel like less of a man every time I think about it."
FOX 11 has learned that Salcido no longer works at Sovereign Health.
According to a court filing obtained by FOX 11, Salcido sued Sovereign Health in October 2017, alleging missed meal breaks, missed break periods, and unpaid overtime.
The case is still pending.
Robert eventually got clean and now lives with his family back in New York where he is going to school to be a barber.
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