Arizona COVID-19 testing sites closed after owners make millions

Five COVID-19 testing centers in Arizona and hundreds more across the country have closed following accusations that owners spent millions on luxury items while test samples were stored in garbage bags, personal information was compromised and sick patients received false negative results.

The Illinois-based Center for COVID Control testing company and its lead lab, Doctors Clinical Lab, are currently under investigation by the FBI and several states.

Testing centers – including sites in Phoenix, Mesa, Glendale and Tucson – have announced free rapid and PCR tests without an appointment and no insurance required.

They sometimes operated from unusual locations, such as an old karate studio in Mesa and a mobile storage unit in Chicago where test bags were stacked in crates on the floor and electricity came from a generator. Some patients said they waited in long lines for tests and employees were not wearing masks.

A former testing site in a graffitied storefront in Phoenix was locked down Monday with signs saying it was closed. Folding tables, chairs, cardboard bins and cleaning supplies were strewn inside.

Inside the Center for COVID Control testing site in Phoenix on January 31, 2022, folding tables, chairs, trash cans and cleaning supplies are scattered.  The company has come under fire and is accused of giving patients false negative test results, incorrectly reporting cases to health authorities and possible financial fraud.

“Fake testing centers … contributed to the spread of COVID-19”

Attorneys general in Minnesota and Washington state filed the lawsuit, citing issues such as delayed results or no results, samples backdated to appear newer, and test results indicating the wrong type of test.

A Medicare investigation found that Doctors Clinical Lab had no state license, a massive backlog, insufficient supplies, improperly stored samples, poorly trained staff, and unsecured confidential patient information.

Employees made numerous errors when administering the tests, the report concluded, including not using timers, not incubating samples long enough, reading results too soon, incorrectly labeling samples and not complying. state reporting requirements.

“The Center for COVID Control contributed to the spread of COVID-19 when it provided false negative results,” the Washington attorney general said. “These bogus testing centers were threatening the health and safety of our communities. They must be held accountable.”

The companies are also accused of financial irregularities.

According to public data, Doctors Clinical Lab has raised more than $155 million from a federal program for uninsured Americans.

But many patients were falsely labeled as uninsured when they actually had insurance coverage, according to state attorneys general in Minnesota and Washington, and their paperwork was submitted to the government for reimbursement.

Private insurers also paid for the lab.

Mansion, exotic cars bought with covid money

The owners of the Center for COVID Control, Akbar Ali Syed, 35, and his wife, Aleya Siyaj, 29, said they started the testing company in 2020 to meet a critical need to quickly deliver COVID-19 tests.

But last week they said they were “shifting our focus from operating the company from marketing and managing the test collection to responding to and cooperating with legal investigations, and clearing our reputation”.

They “encouraged independent operators” of collection sites in the chain to seek “affiliations with other sellers” and a certified lab.

Syed and Siyaj previously ran a wedding photography company, donut shop and ax throwing parlor that closed, business documents show.

USA TODAY has been chronicling flashy spending by Illinois entrepreneurs since November.

Siyaj bought a $1.36 million mansion with a circular driveway, fountain, white pillars, crystal chandeliers and a curved floating staircase.

Syed and his family members shared photos and videos of luxury vehicles worth millions on social media, posting in one photo that a Lamborghini had been bought with “covid money”.

On August 15, 2021, Akbar Ali Syed posted on TikTok that he was bidding on a sky blue Lamborghini at an auction.
Akbar Ali Syed posted a photo of a red Lamborghini Countach "added to my collection" on TikTok on August 29, 2021.

It’s unclear exactly how much money the couple and their employees earned.

But in one video, Syed asked what an employee earned. The employee replied that his annual salary was $1.45 million.

No business license in Arizona

Neither the Center for COVID Control nor the Doctors Clinical Lab has been licensed under those names to do business in Arizona, according to a search of records.

In Lakewood, Washington, city officials shut down a Center for COVID Control site that operated without a business license.

Health departments and attorneys general in Colorado, Massachusetts, Maryland and New York have closed or issued warnings to the sites.

The Arizona attorney general’s office has not filed a lawsuit against the companies, but is looking into the case.

“Arizona is aware of the allegations regarding the Center for COVID Control and we are reviewing them,” Attorney General spokeswoman Katie Conner said. “Anyone who believes they are the victim of consumer fraud is encouraged to file a consumer complaint with our office.”

Signs on doors on January 31, 2022 indicate that the Center for COVID Control's testing site in Phoenix is ​​closed.  The company has come under fire and is accused of giving patients false negative test results, incorrectly reporting cases to health authorities and possible financial fraud.

The Arizona Department of Health Services does not authorize COVID-19 testing centers, spokesman Steve Elliott said.

Instead, they are governed by the Centers for Medicaid & Medicare Services and local business ordinances.

The Department of Health shares complaints about testing facilities with appropriate agencies, including the attorney general, Elliott said, and investigates if requested by federal health officials.

However, the Arizona Department of Health Services has received no complaints about the Center for COVID Control and has not received any requests for investigation from federal authorities, Elliott said.

The Center for COVID Control contacted the state health department to begin reporting test results, but never sent data, he said.

Patients who should have received a test result from the Center for COVID Control but have not received a result should get tested elsewhere if they are still symptomatic or within 10 days of exposure to a COVID-positive person -19, Elliott said.

If anyone is concerned about the legitimacy of a testing site, they can ask to see the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ CLIA (Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendment) license, he said.

“Ask for credentials,” he said. “Any pop-up testing clinic performing rapid testing in Arizona must have a CMS CLIA license. This license must be displayed and available.”

Centers closed for COVID screening locations in Arizona:

  • 7241 E. Speedway Blvd., Tucson, Arizona, 85710
  • 6515 E. Southern Ave., Mesa, Arizona, 85206
  • 1620 W. University Drive, Suite A & B, Mesa, AZ, 85201
  • 1737 E. McDowell Road, Phoenix, Arizona, 85006
  • 8160 W. Union Hills Drive, Suite B200, Glendale, AZ, 85308

How to file a complaint:

Report complaints against the Center for COVID Control or any other company to the Arizona Attorney General’s Office:

Consumer journalist Rebekah L. Sanders investigates fraud and abuse issues involving businesses, healthcare and government agencies. Contact her at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter at @RebekahLSanders.

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