On Saturday, the FBI searched the headquarters of a COVID-19 testing company accused of providing false or deceptive test results.
According to The Hill, the federal government has sent more than $124 million to reimburse the Center for COVID Control for conducting COVID-19 tests.
At its busiest, the Center for COVID Control gathered more than 80,000 tests per day from over 300 locations across 26 states, The Hill reported.
However, many states became suspicious of the company, whose 29-year-old founder Aleya Siyaj had previously started an ax-throwing lounge and a donut shop according to NBC News.
Siyaj and her husband, Akbar Syed, regularly boasted about their wealthy lifestyle on social media, The Hill reported. Their photos included two Lamborghinis, a Ferrari and a mansion valued at $1.36 million.
One of the first people to take action against the company was Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison. Ellison’s office issued a news release Wednesday explaining why he had filed a lawsuit against the company in Hennepin County District Court.
“The Attorney General received numerous complaints from Minnesotans who submitted COVID-19 tests at pop-up sites around the state operated by Center for Covid Control who reported never receiving their test results from the company’s associated lab, Doctors Clinical Laboratory, despite waiting for weeks or more, or who received test results far later than the companies advertised,” the release stated.
“Some Minnesotans also reported receiving test results from the companies despite having never submitted a sample for testing. Still others reported receiving test results with false or inaccurate information about their test.”
According to NBC, the Oregon Department of Justice and the Illinois attorney general opened civil investigations into the company, while authorities in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Washington and California each shut down some or all of the company’s test sites in their states.
Illinois Attorney General’s Office spokeswoman Annie Thompson told USA Today the attorney general “is absolutely committed to protecting residents from those who attempt to profit off of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.”
The scandal hit a new high with the FBI raid on Saturday at the company’s headquarters in Rolling Meadows, Illinois, which FBI Chicago spokesperson Siobhan Johnson described as “court-authorized law enforcement activity,” USA Today reported.
Ellison’s lawsuit called the company’s advertising “deceptive and misleading” and said the reports sent to patients were “deceptively riddled with inaccurate and false information including listing the wrong test type and false dates and times for when samples were collected from consumers to be tested.”
In some cases, the lawsuit charges, some who had never even submitted a sample to the company were notified by the company that they had tested negative for coronavirus.
“Most disturbingly, Defendants have sometimes fraudulently represented that Minnesota consumers have tested negative for COVID-19, despite the consumer never having submitted a sample for Defendants to be tested,” the lawsuit states.
Other CCC customers reported the company to authorities after getting suspicious.
According to NBC, an Oregon resident identified as Kelly Fisher recounted one such experience at a location in her state. She contacted the Oregon attorney general after her visit and said she may have fallen “victim to a scam” after getting tested at a site that “felt very fishy,”
Fisher told NBC she provided a photo of her driver’s license and insurance information at the Center for COVID Control testing site, but the company failed to provide results by the date it had promised.
“I trusted that any entity that was engaged in this operation was doing so in good faith,” Fisher told NBC. “Since then, I’ve only gotten tested at my medical provider’s office.”
A Center for COVID Control representative told USA Today in a statement that the company had spent the past few weeks “in communication with a number of regulatory and law enforcement agencies regarding the company’s operations.”
The sstatement added that on Saturday, “federal law enforcement agents executed a search warrant at the company’s main office as part of what appears to be a similar investigation.”
The statement promised the company would “fully cooperate with all government inquiries, and remains committed to providing the best service possible to our patients.”