June 9, 2020 / 9:25 PM / a month ago

Chief of California firm charged in COVID-19 fraud scheme -DOJ

WASHINGTON, June 9 (Reuters) - The president of a California medical technology company has been charged for ties to a scheme involving false and fraudulent claims for allergy and COVID-19 testing, the U.S. Department of Justice said on Tuesday.

Mark Schena, president of Arrayit Corp, was charged with one count of securities fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California said in a statement. It was the DOJ's first criminal securities fraud prosecution related to the coronavirus pandemic, it said.

Schena and others allegedly submitted false and fraudulent allergy test claims to the Medicare Program that were procured by payment of illegal kickbacks and bribes. He and other company employees also allegedly shared email communications and marketing materials that "misrepresented Arrayit's ability to provide accurate, fast, reliable and cheap COVID-19 tests," according to a complaint unsealed on Tuesday.

Neither Schena nor a representative for Arrayit could be reached immediately for comment.

U.S. regulators have been cracking down on coronavirus misconduct. The U.S. Department of Justice has opened several cases against individuals for defrauding the U.S. coronavirus bailout program.

The Securities and Exchange Commission has suspended trading in more than 30 so-called penny stocks for alleged touting of dubious COVID-19 cures, tests, treatments and medical supplies to investors. The agency suspended trading of Arrayit shares in April. (Reporting by Chris Prentice)

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