- THE BLAZE - ANDREW CHAPADOS - MAR 15, 2023 -
The co-owner of a Chicago, Illinois, company is accused of cheating the United States government out of money through a fraudulent COVID-19 testing scheme.
ABC News reports that Zishan Alvi, a 44-year-old co-owner of company Laboratory Elite, fraudulently planned to seek reimbursements for providing PCR tests and 15-minute rapid antigen tests after lying about the results.
The scheme was through the Health Resources and Services Administration, which covered costs of COVID-19 testing for those without health insurance.
The indictment alleges that the tests were either not performed, done in such a way that results were unreliable, or had already been paid for by customers when the company sought federal reimbursement.
Between February 2021 and February 2022, the company received over $83 million in federal funding, with some of the money allegedly transferred to the Alvi's personal account.
Alvi is accused of using to the money for personal reasons: buying vehicles, stocks, and cryptocurrency.
"The indictment seeks forfeiture from the defendant of at least $6.8 million in alleged ill-gotten gains, in addition to five luxury vehicles and funds from other trade and investment accounts" according to the U.S. attorney's office.
Another way Alvi allegedly increased profits was by using fewer materials than normally required to process the PCR tests.
"To reduce costs and increase Laboratory A’s profits, ALVI directed Laboratory A employees to alter Laboratory A’s PCR testing method by using less of the materials necessary to process the PCR test, including the reagents, knowing that this made the test results unreliable," the indictment reads.
Alvi also told employees to provide customers with negative results despite tests never being performed:
"In order to conceal the fact that tests were not performed, ALVI instructed Laboratory A employees to release purported negative COVID-19 test results to individuals, when ALVI knew that no tests were performed," the allegations state.
Alvi is charged by a federal grand jury with 10 counts of wire fraud and one count of theft of government funds.
"It is absolutely reprehensible that the defendant would use a public health crisis to allegedly defraud taxpayers and further put public health at risk by providing fraudulent COVID-19 test results," said Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul.
The crimes are punishable by up to 20 years in prison for each count of wire fraud, while theft of government funds can carry a 10-year sentence.