California lab owners plead guilty to $359M COVID test fraud scheme

A California woman pleaded guilty to her role in a $359 million scheme to bill public and private insurers for unnecessary COVID-19 tests. 

According to an Oct. 5 news release from the Justice Department, Lourdes Navarro, of Glendale, Calif., and a co-conspirator, Imran Shams, obtained nasal swab specimens from schools, assisted living facilities and other sites to test for COVID-19. Health Care Providers Laboratory would then perform respiratory pathogen panel tests on some of these swabs, even though only tests for COVID-19 were ordered. 

Ms. Navarro and Mr. Shams submitted around $359 million in false claims for the tests to Medicare, the Health Resources and Services Administration COVID-19 Uninsured Program and a private insurer, and were reimbursed for $54 million. 

Mr. Shams previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud. Ms. Navarro pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud and wire fraud and faces up to 20 years in prison. Both are scheduled to be sentenced in January. 


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