Man accused in $83.6 million fraudulent COVID-19 testing scheme out on bond
Wed, Mar 15, 2023 5:30 PM
By Brett Rowland, The Center Square
A man federal prosecutors allege is responsible for an $83.6 million fraudulent COVID-19 testing scheme is out on bond after putting up the deed to his 5,600-square-foot suburban Chicago home.
Prosecutors don't just want the home, which is worth at least $865,000. They are seeking $83,578,387.89.
Prosecutors are seeking forfeiture of five luxury cars and several bank accounts. The vehicles include a 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLB 250, a 2021 Land Rover Range Rover HSE, a 2021 Lamborghini Urus, a 2021 Bentley and a 2022 Tesla X. They further want a bank account with about $6.8 million, $810,000 in an E*Trade account, $500,000 in a Fidelity Investments account and $245,814 in a Coinbase account, according to court records.
Zishan Alvi, 44, of Inverness, said Wednesday he plans to fight the charges against him.
"We just got to fight this and prove my innocence," Alvi said. "The truth always comes out."
He declined to comment on specifics and referred additional questions to his attorney, Murdoch Walker. Walker did not respond to an email or return a voicemail seeking comment.
Prosecutors allege Alvi co-owned and operated a Chicago laboratory, LabElite, that claimed to offer COVID-19 testing. The lab sought reimbursement for tests that were never performed, were performed improperly, or were already paid for by the client. Alvi faces ten counts of wire fraud and one count of theft of government funds.
The lab also offered a service where people and companies could pay a fee to receive COVID-19 PCR test results in an expedited fashion. The lab enrolled the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Health Resources and Services Administration Uninsured Program in December 2020. The program was designed to cover COVID-19 testing costs for people without health insurance coverage, according to an indictment filed by prosecutors.
Prosecutors said the lab submitted fraudulent claims and delivered inaccurate and unreliable test results to the public. The claims sought reimbursement for tests that prosecutors say Alvi knew had not performed or were unreliable and in some cases had already been paid for by the person.
Prosecutors said Alvi provided negative test results to be released to people who had provided a specimen for testing, but the test had not been performed. They further allege that Alvi directed lab employees to falsely indicate in lab records that COVID-19 tests had been performed for these people, when Alvi knew that the test specimens had been discarded at his direction and had not been tested. To conceal the fact that tests were not performed, the lab "did not release positive COVID-19 results on specimens where tests were eventually performed, because a purported negative result had already been released," according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
The lab collected more than $83.6 million from the HRSA Uninsured Program as payment for COVID-19 tests purportedly performed by the lab.
“The charges in this case allege that the defendant disregarded public health concerns in favor of personal financial gain," Acting U.S. Attorney Morris Pasqual said in a statement. "Doing so by compromising taxpayer-funded programs intended to fight the spread of coronavirus was particularly reprehensible."
Each count of wire fraud is punishable by up to 20 years in federal prison, and the count of theft of government funds is punishable by up to 10 years in federal prison.
Alvi put up the deed to his Inverness home as part of an agreement to be released before trial, according to court records.