Washington state sues Center for COVID Control over 'fake test' allegations

Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a lawsuit against the Center for COVID Control, alleging the embattled company improperly handled tests and provided fake results.

Ferguson’s office announced the lawsuit Monday, saying the company "failed to deliver prompt, valid and accurate results," made deceptive promises of results within 48 hours, and reportedly instructed its employees to "lie to patients on a daily basis."

The lawsuit asserts the company also improperly stored COVID-19 tests, keeping them in garbage bags for weeks before processing them, instead of refrigerating them as is required.

The company paused nationwide operations after their testing site was shut down in Lakewood.

RELATED: Center for Covid Control to 'pause' testing nationwide after Washington location shut down

"Center for COVID Control contributed to the spread of COVID-19 when it provided false negative results," said Ferguson. "These sham testing centers threatened the health and safety of our communities. They must be held accountable."

Before the lawsuit, the company operated around 300 testing sites around the U.S., including local sites in Lakewood, Tacoma, University Place, Seattle, Bellevue, Auburn, Lynnwood, Everett, Port Orchard in Yakima.

Center for COVID Control did not have a license to operate a business in any of those places, except for Yakima. The AG’s office says they provided COVID tests to thousands of people in our state.

The company dubiously advertised they could provide test results within 15 minutes for rapid tests, or within 48 hours for PCR tests. Data entry staff quickly became bogged down by tests, telling investigators they received 8,000–10,000 samples daily, and that owners refused to hire more staff to help.

Because of this, the AG’s office says garbage bags full of tests started piling up on the floor of the office for weeks. However, samples become invalid after three days, so the company’s director of operations allegedly told employees to start falsely post-dating samples and test them, so they company could still bill insurance companies and the federal government.

Ferguson says many people received false negative tests, invalid results or no results at all. He cited one instance where a Yakima family received negative test results, despite having severe symptoms of COVID-19 the day after getting tested.

As test processing slowed to a crawl, the Center for COVID Control was reportedly ‘flooded’ with calls about late or absent test results. The lawsuit alleges that when the company received several calls from the same patient, employees were told to lie to them and say they needed to be tested again, allowing them to bill their insurance company a second time.

According to the Attorney General’s office, the company billed the federal government $124 million in tests for ‘uninsured’ patients. If patients could not immediately provide their insurance information, they were marked as uninsured; by the end of their operations, they had ‘uninsured’ autofilled on their forms for every patient, even if they were insured.

One Washington customer told investigators she went to the company’s testing site in Everett, received a test, then did not get any results for several hours. When she complained to an employee, she was told the sample was lost, and she needed to take a second one. Just a minute later, she received an email from the company reporting her test came back negative.

Suspicious of the result, she went to a Department of Health testing site, where her test result later came back positive.

Ferguson’s lawsuit against the company demands they stop all false test reporting, pay up to $12,500 for each violation of the Consumer Protection Act, pay $5,000 in enhanced penalties for targeting vulnerable populations and relinquish any profits the company made from unlawful conduct.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: COVID-19 testing sites under investigation after complaints allege 'fake tests'

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