JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The owners of a company operating hundreds of pop-up COVID-19 testing sites across the country, including one in Jacksonville, have been the subject of several investigations by major media outlets over how they’re spending their money.
As the Center for COVID Control faces a lawsuit from the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office accusing the company of “deceptive and fraudulent practices,” the owners of the company are facing accusations of their own.
Major news outlets like USA Today and The Daily Mail have investigated the married couple who started the COVID testing company and are reporting that the couple, who lives in Illinois, has been accumulating things like a nice house and multiple luxury cars and promoting their lavish lifestyle on social media — accounts that have since been taken down.
The center has also been the subject of a News4JAX I-TEAM investigation after we learned of concerns from patients. One of the Center for COVID Control testing sites was located in Downtown Jacksonville and its lease was terminated last week.
According to the Center for COVID Control’s website, it plans to resume operations Saturday. It’s unclear if it will open at a different location in Jacksonville.
When News4JAX reached out to the company, it sent a lengthy statement that included quotes from the wife who co-owns the Center for COVID Control. She said, “we’ve made this difficult decision to temporarily pause all operations, until we are confident that all collection sites are meeting our high standards for quality.”
For now, the owners remain under the microscope, and Shannon Schott, past president of the local chapter of the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, said prosecutors will definitely look into the social media posts.
“It’s very unfortunate that they spent so much, boasting about what they have and now they’re facing fraud charges. The government can absolutely use these photos to build a case against them,” Schott said.
But the question, Schott said, will be whether prosecutors can prove the riches were obtained with dollars made through the COVID testing business or if the family was already wealthy.
“Independent wealth is completely relevant in this case. If they’re entrepreneurs and they’ve had these properties before the pandemic outbreak, there could be, again, a reasonable explantation,” Schott said. “They could be independently wealthy and have these properties.”
The Minnesota lawsuit claims the Center for COVID Control made its staff falsely post-date samples to make them appear to be more recent than they were.
It also accuses the company of making Minnesota patients take several tests by telling them the results were inconclusive and charging them for it, as well as telling the federal government several patients did not have insurance even though they did.
The Minnesota Attorney General’s Office is looking at penalties that can reach up to $25,000 per violation against the company.
Some of the accusations against the Center for COVID Control include instances when people never got their test results — or were given a negative result before they even took a test. Other complaints include the company giving false test dates, times and even listing the wrong kind of tests.
Last week, the Center for COVID Control announced it was temporarily shutting down its operations because it said the omicron variant stressed its staff and overwhelmed its demand.
The Center for COVID Control is based out of Illinois. The state attorney general’s office there is also investigating the company along with an investigation by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, which is a part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
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