The U.S. Department of Justice announced criminal charges against a founder of a Chicago-based COVID-19 testing lab that allegedly made over $83 million in fraudulent federal health claims for COVID tests. Zishan Alvi, 44, co-owned and operated Laboratory Elite, which falsely claimed to have offered two types of COVID-19 testing in addition to expedited test results, an indictment charged, reports USA Today. Alvi was indicted on ten counts of wire fraud and one count of theft of government funds. “The charges, in this case, allege that the defendant disregarded public health concerns in favor of personal financial gain. Doing so by compromising taxpayer-funded programs intended to fight the spread of coronavirus was particularly reprehensible,” said Illinois Acting U.S. Attorney Morris Pasqual. The indictment alleges that Alvi transferred over $83 million in fraudulently obtained federal funds to a bank account for personal expenditures, including luxury vehicle purchases, and stock and cryptocurrency investments.
In late 2020, Lab Elite enrolled in the Health Resources and Services Administration Uninsured Program, which administered funds to help cover the costs of COVID-19 testing for people without health insurance coverage. Alvi allegedly schemed with others to submit false health claims to reimburse inaccurate and unreliable test results to the public from 2021 to 2022. The indictment alleges that Alvi directed Lab Elite employees to provide negative test results for COVID-19 tests that had not been actually performed or discarded. In an effort to reduce costs and increase the lab’s profits, the indictment said Alvi had employees use fewer materials than required to process tests, which he knew would make the test results unreliable. Alvi’s operation obtained over $83 million from the uninsured program. The indictment seeks forfeiture of at least $6.8 million from Alvi, in addition to five luxury vehicles and funds from other trade and investment accounts.