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SALEM, Ore. (AP) — The state of Oregon accused owners of an Illinois-based COVID-19 testing company of stealing millions of dollars in federal funds and insurance money in a lawsuit filed Thursday and said they boasted about buying a mansion and expensive sports cars.
Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum sued the Center for Covid Control, or CCC, and its testing partner, Doctors Clinical Laboratory, for deceptively marketing testing services and for violating Oregon's Unlawful Trade Practices Act.
The lawsuit says Aleya Siyaj and Akbar Ali Syed, the married couple who own CCC, had no prior experience in the medical field or medical testing and had run an axe throwing lounge and a photography studio.
This raises questions about how they managed to become the recipients of federal funds for testing. The lawsuit noted they're also being investigated by the FBI and Illinois public health authorities. FBI agents searched the company's headquarters near Chicago in January, according to local news reports.
Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson sued the CCC in January, accusing it of improperly handling tests and providing fake results.
The CCC did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment. A phone number listed on its website was disconnected. The website said CCC has paused its operations "and will not resume collection of patient samples until staffing resources permit CCC to operate at full capacity."
Oregon's lawsuit alleges CCC and Doctors Clinical Laboratory falsely told consumers they could provide accurate PCR COVID-19 results within 72 hours, but instead produced questionable test results and lacked proper capacity to store and process the thousands of test specimens they received each day.
"These companies were ill-equipped to scale up as fast as they did," Rosenblum said in a statement. The lawsuit says CCC grew from one testing site in Illinois — in the former axe throwing lounge — to become one of the largest testing center operators in America, with 300 test sites across the United States, including five in Oregon.
"Oregonians made crucial decisions — about returning to work or school, travel, and visiting family and friends — in reliance on shoddy tests," she said.
The 29-page lawsuit alleges the couple funneled millions of dollars received from the federal government and insurance companies for testing to themselves.
"Syed posted pictures of the couple's purchases on social media, including a $1,360,000 mansion and multiple luxury cars worth millions, including a sky blue Lamborghini, a red Lamborghini Countach, a Tesla Model Y, and a Ferrari Enzo," the lawsuit said.
Syed bought that Ferrari, a rare model, for $3.7 million, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit, filed in Multnomah County, asks that CCC and DCL be banned permanently from offering COVID-19 testing in Oregon, for restitution for Oregonians who were victimized and for civil penalties of up to $25,000 for each violation of Oregon law, plus attorney fees and costs of Oregon's investigation.
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