coronavirus

FBI Searched HQ of National COVID-19 Testing Company That's Facing Complaints

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The FBI’s Chicago office confirmed Monday that its agents visited the Illinois headquarters of Center for COVID Control, a large COVID-19 testing company that has faced increased scrutiny for its operations – and is the subject of several NBC Bay Area news investigations. 

"The FBI was conducting court-authorized law enforcement activity in Rolling Meadows [Illinois] yesterday,” a spokesperson said. “Department of Justice policy prevents the FBI from commenting on the nature of any investigations that may or may not be occurring.”

In a statement released Monday afternoon, a CCC spokesman acknowledged the FBI's involvement.

"Federal law enforcement agents executed a search warrant at the company’s main office," he said. "Although we cannot provide specific comments regarding ongoing investigations, the company intends to fully cooperate with all government inquiries, and remains committed to providing the best service possible to our patients.”

Center for COVID Control operated at least three San Francisco Bay Area locations -- one each in San Jose, Mountain View, and San Ramon. The company says they are closed indefinitely to re-train staff and ensure regulatory compliance. 

The FBI field office in San Francisco did not immediately say whether agents visited any Bay Area CCC locations. 

As NBC Bay Area has been reporting, some Center for COVID Control patients have complained about not getting their COVID-19 test results. Or, in some cases, getting results even though they never provided a sample to be tested. Federal Medicare inspectors who visited CCC’s lab partner, Doctors Clinical Laboratory, found myriad deficiencies: inadequate staff, improper sample handling, and failure to follow test manufacturers’ directions to read results. In some cases, samples had no identifying labels at all.    

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All the while, CDC records show, the federal government has paid the CCC’s lab partner more than $100 million to conduct COVID-19 testing. 

Some patients have told NBC Bay Area that CCC staff instructed them to leave their health insurance information off intake forms. Doing so would trigger automatic billing to the federal government, not health insurers -- charging taxpayers more than they should be charged. 

Last week, a company spokesman said that was not CCC policy. 

The FBI did not state the nature of its investigation. 

“Generally speaking, and not to be construed as a comment on the aforementioned, the FBI always stands ready to protect the American people from fraudulent and criminal activity,” the agency said in a statement. “If there is evidence that a federal crime has been committed, the FBI will work tirelessly with law enforcement and prosecutorial partners at all levels, across the state, and throughout the nation to safeguard the public."

Federal investigators are not the only ones looking into Center for COVID Control. Last week, Minnesota’s Attorney General filed suit against CCC; several states moved to close CCC locations; and various municipalities have said they were looking into CCC’s operations. That list includes the city of Mountain View. 

A database of federal payments to test providers shows that CCC's partner laboratory, Doctors Clinical Laboratory, has continued to receive payments -- $17 million in the past week alone.

When whether those payments should continue, a Health Resources and Services Administration spokesperson said, "HRSA reserves the right to suspend reimbursements and take corrective actions to recover funds for any provider found out of compliance with the terms and conditions of the Uninsured Program, but we cannot comment on the status of any state or federal investigations or the impact of those investigations on any provider’s eligibility to participate."

Congressman Ro Khanna, of Santa Clara, whose district includes at least two Center for COVID Control sites, said his office would make contact with the Health and Human Services department about the ongoing payments of tax dollars. "We’re going to flag it for HHS today,” he said. “These investigations need to continue. It’s a real concern.” 

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