Schaumburg lab accused of stealing millions in federal funds as part of COVID-19 test kit scheme

ByChuck Goudie and Barb Markoff, Christine Tressel and Tom Jones WLS logo
Saturday, December 2, 2023
Suburban lab accused of stealing millions in COVID test kit scheme
Baqar Hussain Razv Syed, owner of Luna Labs in Schaumburg, is accused of filing millions of dollars' of false Medicare claims for COVID test kits.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A felony criminal indictment unsealed in federal court on Friday alleges a Schaumburg laboratory owner was involved in a COVID-19 test-kit scheme to defraud Medicare and hundreds of patients for tens of millions of dollars.

Baqar Hussain Razv Syed, the owner of Luna Labs out of Schaumburg, is accused of filing millions of dollars' worth of false Medicare claims for allegedly providing COVID-19 test kits to beneficiaries across the country who said they had never requested or ordered such tests.

Syed is also accused of filing claims on behalf of hundreds of "deceased beneficiaries," court records show.

Syed's attorney Christopher Parente told the I-Team his client's arraignment on the charges "is not set yet but he will be entering a plea of not guilty." Parente said he did not have any additional comments on the case to share at this time.

Investigators say Syed purchased Luna Labs at the start of 2023, and, almost immediately started filing false Medicare claims for COVID-19 test kits.

The lab filed claims with Medicare for more than $30 million dollars' worth of COVID-19 test kits in a five month span from January through May, 2023, which got the attention of federal investigators.

According to the indictment, the investigation began in April 2023, when law enforcement agencies detected a massive spike in billing for over-the-counter COVID-19 tests, followed by more than 4,000 complaints from Medicare beneficiaries, many who live in Illinois.

The beneficiaries complained they did not receive the OTC COVID-19 test kits, nor had they requested the kits, but nonetheless, they were charged for them on their "explanation of Medicare benefits" statement mailed to their homes.

Investigators also said Luna Labs filed claims for providing COVID-19 test kits to at least 744 people who were "deceased beneficiaries."

Despite the claims that the lab was supplying COVID test kits to patients, investigators with the FBI said a detailed review of the lab's vendors and bank accounts "were unable to conclusively identify a large and consistent stream of expenses tied to business activities typically expected with the operation of supplying COVID Test Kits, such as test kit purchases, packaging fees, and/or storage fees."

Syed was arrested by federal investigators in July but the court records detailing his charges were only recently unsealed.

Public complaints for the lab, reviewed by the ABC 7 I-Team, show many Medicare beneficiaries complaining of the COVID-19 test kit charges, despite not receiving anything.

"Got [a] note from Medicare [that] they declined a bill for a covid test for my mom. She died 6 months prior to the supposed date they provided the service," one person posted in August.

Another posted complaint from July reads, "Never heard of this lab before receiving notice from Medicare that Luna Labs had billed them twice for Covid Test that I didn't order or authorize Luna Labs to do that and for tests I never received. They got paid $94, twice, for two separate claims... I have no idea how they got my Medicare number and my personal information to submit a claim that Medicare's system paid and that's very concerning!"

According to the indictment, Luna Labs is one of 12 laboratories located in the Chicagoland area that are being investigated for falsely submitting claims for COVID-19 test kits that were never provided to beneficiaries.

The court records did not list the names of the other labs under investigation.