Silicon Valley medical tech company chairman accused on Tuesday of misleading investors by mistakenly claiming that the company had developed a government-approved blood test for the new coronavirus – the first criminal prosecution for fraud related to the COVID-19 pandemic, said federal officials. .
Mark Schena, President of Arrayit Corporation, has been charged with one count of securities fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud after authorities stated that his The company had billed Medicare $ 69 million for unnecessary coronavirus and allergy testing.
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Schena did not immediately return a message requesting comments.
Schena, 57, said the Sunnyvale-based company had the only laboratory in the world that offered “revolutionary microarray technology” that allowed it to test allergies and coronavirus with the same stick test kit, said prosecutors.
From 2018 until February 2020, Schena and other employees paid bribes to recruiters and doctors to perform an allergy test for 120 allergens, ranging from biting insects to food allergens on each patient, authorities said.
As the coronavirus pandemic began to escalate, Schena of Los Altos asked patient recruiters and clinics to add her coronavirus test, prosecutors said.
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He is also accused of publishing false statements on social networks and in corporate emails to investors regarding Arrayit’s ability to provide accurate, fast, reliable and inexpensive coronavirus tests in accordance with national regulations and federal.
Schena told investigators that he thought developing a test for the coronavirus based on his allergy test would be simple, “like a pastry chef” going from selling “strawberry pies” to selling “pies with rhubarb and strawberry ”.
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Arrayit never revealed that the Food and Drug Administration informed him on April 17 that his COVID-19 test was not at an acceptable level of performance, federal prosecutors said.
The company also claimed partnerships with Fortune 500 companies, government agencies and public institutions, without disclosing that they were trivial or nonexistent, federal prosecutors said.
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Arrayit’s share price more than doubled in mid-March, even as the stock market plummeted, according to court documents.
“The lure of reliable and inexpensive alternatives to today’s standard blood test panels has captured the imagination of the healthcare industry, making these alternatives a subject of choice for fraudsters”, a said US Attorney David L. Anderson of the Northern District of California.