The state of Washington has filed suit against an embattled COVID-19 testing company, saying it never produced the results that it promised.
The lawsuit was filed Monday in King County Superior Court against the Illinois-based Center for COVID Control, which is co-owned by Akbar Syed and Aleya Siyaj. The state said the company never lived up to its promises, with devastating results.
“Center for Covid Control claims to offer crucial COVID-19 tests throughout Washington for free; providing results within 48 hours,” the lawsuit said. “In reality, Defendants lacked a license to operate almost all of their Washington testing sites, improperly took patient insurance information, and caused imminent and irrevocable harm to the welfare of the people of Washington by providing invalid COVID-19 test results or no results at all.”
Last month, the FBI searched the company’s headquarters in Rolling Meadows, Illinois.
According to The Hill, the federal government has paid more than $124 million for testing allegedly performed by the center, which at one time was doing business with 26 states.
Washington said in its lawsuit that because the Center for COVID Control “lacked the capacity to process the volume of tests it received,” it “engaged in practices that resulted in consumers receiving false negative test results.”
“These practices included storing tests in garbage bags strewn about its facility for over a week rather than properly refrigerating them, and backdating sample collection dates so that stale samples would still be processed,” the suit said.
Far more than procedure was at stake, the lawsuit said.
“By reporting false negative test results, Defendants contributed to the spread of the deadly COVID-19 virus. Defendants also frequently failed to report any test results at all, causing potentially COVID-19-free individuals to isolate and miss work, travel, and time with loved ones unnecessarily,” the suit said.
In alleging that the company violated Washington’s Consumer Protection Act, the lawsuit said the company’s owners denied requests to add staff and knew full well what was going on.
“Co-owners Akbar Syed and Aleya Siyaj, who were regularly at the facility, observed the tests being stored in trash bags and took few, if any, steps to better organize testing and ensure timely processing of the samples,” the lawsuit said.
Although results were promised within 48 hours, the company stalled consumers asking about their tests, according to the suit.
“As Defendants fell behind on processing incoming test samples, they began to receive numerous consumer complaints about tardy or non-existent test results,” it said. “Call waits were, at times, over three hours long.
“When consumers did finally get through the queue to ask about their results, Defendants’ employees looking up consumers’ test results often found that the tests had not yet been processed, even though more than 48 hours had passed.
“Defendants instructed their employees to deceptively tell consumers in this situation that the consumers’ results were coming in 24 hours, even if the employees had no idea where the sample was or if the lab would ever test it.”
Persistent customers ended up being a windfall for the center, the lawsuit said.
“If a consumer called multiple times, employees were instructed to falsely tell consumers that the test result was inconclusive and that they needed to take another test. That way, not only could Defendants bill for the test that was not processed or was processed late, Defendants encouraged consumers to send yet another sample to Defendants for Defendants to bill,” the suit said.
The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages as well as an injunction banning the company from the COVID testing market.
Minnesota also has filed a lawsuit against the center, while Oregon and Illinois are investigating its practices.
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