SHOREWOOD, WI — A private COVID-19 testing site in Shorewood and hundreds more locations like it across the nation will continue to be shuttered as investigations into their parent company, Center For Covid Control, continue.
Federal agents searched the company's headquarters in Rolling Meadows, Illinois on Saturday, according to reports. A spokesperson for the FBI's Chicago office told USA Today they were conducting court-authorized law enforcement activity.
NBC News reported federal records show the company has billed over $120 million to the federal government for testing people without insurance.
On Jan. 13, after complaints filed in from people who took the company's tests, and some states began investigations into the company, the company announced it will halt operations across all locations until Jan. 22 to allow for further staff training.
On Jan. 20, two days before Center for Covid Control initially said it would resume operations, the company announced the closure across its 300 locations will be extended until further notice. Alongside the announcement, the company said any location that is conducting business can be reported to them via email.
The people who are listed as owning or managing the broader Center For Covid Control company, Akbar Syed and Aleya Siyaj, have come under scrutiny after purchasing luxury vehicles and a mansion, USA Today reported.
The Minnesota Attorney General filed a lawsuit on Jan. 19 against Center for Covid Control, LLC and Doctors Clinical Laboratory, Inc. The lawsuit charges the companies with false advertising, deceptive trading practices and violation of the Minnesota state consumer fraud active.
According to the Minnesota Attorney General's office, former employees of the company said they found samples in bags that were well over 48 hours old. Investigators said management told employees to lie by telling customers their tests were negative or inconclusive when really samples were not even tested in the first place.
Complaints found online have not specified the Shorewood location, although cautions and concerns have surfaced in other parts of Wisconsin.
At the 2223 East Capitol Drive site on Jan. 11, before the closures, a sign could be seen in the window saying it is only offering rapid tests. A large banner appeared in the window with the company name.
The make-shift facility was marked by a lack of decor, empty floor space, and empty red interior walls. The site appeared to be staffed by two employees.
As they arrived, test-takers were instructed to take a bag containing a small vial and a nasal swab from a central table and to sit at a TV dinner tray nearby. Staff directed test-takers as a group to swab both nostrils five times each, and to then stir the swab in the vial of liquid at least 20 times. Test results were sent to one Patch reporter within an hour of taking the test.
On Monday, the prominent sign advertising "Center for COVID Control" could not be seen in the storefront's window, but from outside, testing supplies appeared to still be inhabiting the interior of the building.
At one point, the company appeared to be advertising options to open a test site on its website. The location, centerforcovidcontrol.org/coming-soon which has since been blocked with a password, was accessed by Patch on Jan. 14. It reads:
"Are you interested in opening up a testing site? Welcome to our onboarding department!"
It then listed contact information.
"Please be patient as we process all requests. We are excited to have you on board!"
Center For Covid Control via email declined to comment on further questions from Patch about the advertised "onboarding" options. Patch reached out again via email on Monday.
While the company advertised several sites across the Milwaukee area on its website before scrutiny and investigations took off, none of them appeared in the Wisconsin Department of Health Services' official list of community COVID-19 testing sites.
A spokesperson for the Wisconsin Department of Health Services told Patch via email "DHS researches each inquiry or complaint regarding COVID-19 provider testing or billing practices that do not align with current policies."
"We conduct outreach to providers to investigate each situation as appropriate. That includes education about current policies and regulations and any next steps required by the provider and/or DHS."
The agency spokesperson said the DHS was unable to comment on specific allegations, complaints or investigations.
Patch reached out to the Wisconsin Department of Justice for comment.
Patch Editors Ethan Duran and William Bornhoft contributed to this report.