The co-owner of a business in Chicago, Illinois, is charged with defrauding the US government of funds through a phony COVID-19 testing program.
According to ABC News, 44-year-old co-owner of the business Laboratory Elite, Zishan Alvi planned to illegally request reimbursements for supplying PCR testing and 15-minute quick antigen tests after lying about the outcomes.
For those without health insurance, the Health Services and Resources Administration’s program subsidized the cost of the COVID-19 test.
According to the indictment, the tests were either not conducted, carried out in a way that produced incorrect findings, or had already been paid for by clients when the business applied for federal reimbursement.
The business got approximately $83 million in federal support between February 2021 and 2022, with some of the funds supposedly moved to Alvi’s personal account.
Alvi is charged with utilizing the funds for personal use, including the purchase of cars, stocks, and cryptocurrency.
“The indictment demands for the forfeiture of at least $6.8 million of alleged ill-gotten proceeds from the defendant, in addition to five luxury cars and cash from other investment and trading accounts” according to the U.S. attorney’s office.
Using fewer resources than usual to process the PCR tests is another way Alvi purportedly enhanced earnings.
The indictment states, “Knowing that this made the test findings inaccurate, ALVI directed Laboratory A workers to change Laboratory A’s PCR testing procedure by using fewer of the resources required for processing the PCR test, including the reagents.”
The claims state that “ALVI sent instructions to Laboratory A staff members to inform people of purportedly negative COVID-19 test results even though ALVI was aware that no tests had actually been run.”
A federal grand jury has indicted Alvi on 10 counts of wire fraud as well as one count of embezzlement of public monies.
“By illegally defrauding taxpayers and endangering public health by allegedly giving false COVID-19 test results, the defendant violated the law,” according to Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul.
For each instance of wire fraud, the maximum sentence is 20 years in prison; and for theft of government funds, the maximum sentence is 10 years in jail.