This is the story of Aleya Siyaj, a COVID testing scammer who set up more than 300 fake pop-up COVID-testing centers and cashed in millions.
Who is Aleya Siyaj?
Aleya Siyaj, 29, and her husband Akbar Ali Syed, 35, of St. Charles, Illinois, are longtime entrepreneurs. The couple has previously launched several business ventures. In 2013, Syed started a wedding photography business. Siyaj has reportedly launched at least six businesses. Siyaj owned the O’s Donuts & Cafe, which launched in 2017 and closed in November 2020, according to USA Today. On LinkedIn, Sijaj is listed as the owner of Axe Range, an axe-throwing lounge. She and her husband opened the axe-throwing lounge in 2019. They opened a second site in Schaumburg in the summer of 2020. However, they closed the business in 2020, according to a report in the Daily Herald newspaper. Also, Siyaj reportedly recently established Aenaz, Lom Investments and Testing Solutions.
Center for COVID Control (CCC)
Siyaj founded CCC in December 2020 ‘to meet a critical market need to establish testing centers where COVID tests could be provided to patients rapidly and safely to minimize delay, and let people get on with their daily activities,’ according to a statement on the company’s website.
The company refers to Aleya Siyaj as the ‘CEO and founder’. It has more than 300 testing locations nationwide, and it claims to offer free same-day rapid test results. Some of these locations are pop-ups run out of sheds or mobile storage units.
By the end of 2021, CCC began to experience trouble. Increased testing due to the surge in Covid cases after the Omicron variant came revealed cracks in the company’s system. Beginning around November 2021, frustrated consumers took to social media, Google and the Better Business Bureau to complain about their experience with the company’s sketchy testing sites. Some complained about receiving negative results even before taking their tests. There were also complaints of delayed or no results at all.
A person named Scott F. posted to the BBB website on January 2, ‘There were a TON of red flags that this company was a data mining scam that is a hazard to public health,’ adding that the stations were ‘not being cleaned or sanitized in between users collecting samples from their noses.’
In November and December, 2021, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, conducted surveys at multiple CCC testing sites and the Doctors Clinical Laboratory (the ‘main lab’). CMS found ‘non-compliance’ with numerous standards, affecting more than 400,000 tests.
Statements by CCC ex-employees have confirmed the customers’ complaints to be true. One ex-employee said that unprocessed COVID tests piled up in garbage bags. “They came in these trash bags, and we counted them on the floor of an office building, like where the computers are set up and everything. So we kind of had to scramble around and find a good place to count in that area. The first couple of bags I counted right on the floor next to the computer,” Michael Pino, a former CCC employee, told the I-Team. Pino, who worked at CCC headquarters from September until late December, also said he was instructed to lie to customers about their test results.
Another former CCC employee told WLS that “the dates were absolutely getting changed. If your test was getting late, nine times out of 10 we were probably changing your date to the date your test was taken, instead of the date your test was actually being processed.”
Consequently, the BBB posted an alert on their website about the CCC stating that “Consumers allege problems with not receiving test results, poor customer service, and requesting personally identifiable information (driver’s license, insurance, etc.).”
Federal agencies investigations into CCC
Agencies in Illinois and Oregon were the first to launch investigations into the fraudulent COVID testing company. According to Oregon Live, the Oregon Department of Justice launched a civil investigation into CCC in the second week of January 2022. The agency is looking into possible violations of the Unfair Trade Practices Act.
The attorneys general in Minnesota, Illinois and Florida, along with other agencies around the country, have also been involved. On January 19, 2022, Minnesota’s attorney general sued CCC and its associated clinical lab for failing to deliver COVID-19 test results or delivered untimely or falsified test results.
Center for COVID Control closed indefinitely
CCC announced it would pause operations from January 14 to 22, citing “unusually high patient demand” and “stressed staffing resources affecting usual customer service standards and diagnostic goals.” But on January 20, 2022, the fraudulent COVID testing company announced on its website that all its locations would be closed until further notice.
Sijaj and Syed are accused of billing the government for $113 million for tests provided to uninsured patients across the country. Allegedly, CCC instructed employees to lie to consumers that their test results had been inconclusive and that they needed to take another test. In addition, the Minnesota attorney general says the testing company’s advertisements and representations are deceptive and misleading.
The BBB has also dropped the Center for Covid Control’s rating on its website to an “F.”
Siyaj flaunted ‘COVID money’ on social media
Even as complaints from CCC customers poured in, the Covid testing scammer and her husband didn’t take a break at flaunting their lavish lifestyle and high-end purchases on social media.
Syed, on his TikTok account, which has been taken down, shared photos and videos of luxury cars. His nephew has a YouTube channel that focuses on the family’s growing car collection.
In August 2021, Syed posted a photo of a pickup truck with the caption ‘no hands ma!!’ At the end of the same month, Syed posted a video to his TikTok account of a red Lamborghini Countach being unloaded from a flatbed truck. He captioned the post ‘Countach added to my collection and added the tag, ‘#entrepreneur.’ When a user asked if it was oil money, Syed replied ‘COVID money.’
In November 2021, Siyaj and Syed became owners of a $1.36 million home in St. Charles, Illinois. The Zillow listing features a 3.65-acre plot on a private road with a gated entry, three-car garage, circular front driveway, fountain, white pillars, iron double doors, crystal chandeliers and a curved floating staircase.
In December 2021, Syed’s nephew posted a video showing an ‘unveiling’ of a 2018 Ford GT, which costs about $985,000. At the end of December, two videos were posted on the nephew’s YouTube channel showing a Ford GT parked in the driveway of the couple’s St. Charles home.
On December 22, 2021, a 2003 Ferrari Enzo was auctioned off for $3.7 million to a person in Illinois, USA Today reported. Supercars.net reported the sale set a world record as ‘the highest sale price achieved on an online car auction platform’ and ‘the highest sale price achieved for a Ferrari Enzo at an online auction.’
According to Shannon Shot, who has served as the President of Florida Association of Criminal Lawyers, Northeast Chapter, the government can absolutely use the photos and video posted by the couple to build a case against them. There are multiple questions in this case going forward. The main question for the prosecution is whether the family’s lavish lifestyle and expensive possessions were obtained with dollars made through this COVID testing business.
Around the country, there are many scams similar to this Oregon Covid testing scam. COVID-19 testing is in high demand. Medical experts and government officials are warning consumers to be extremely wary of Covid testing scammers in substandard or fraudulent “pop-up” testing centers.
Here are eight tips to help discern which testing centers are legitimate — and protect yourself against all different types of COVID-19 testing scams.
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