Another Figure in UC Fertility Scandal Leaves the Country
A former business manager for the UC Irvine fertility clinic whose Tustin home was raided by federal agents in connection with the university’s egg-stealing scandal has moved to Chile because he can’t make a living in the United States, his attorney said Monday.
The move by Cesar Negrete a few weeks ago means that three of the four targets in the Sept. 19 raids have left the country.
Dr. Ricardo H. Asch, the clinic’s former director now practicing in Mexico, left shortly after the raids on his home and office, and Dr. Jose P. Balmaceda returned to his native Chile more than two months ago. Both have sold their homes, causing some investigators to speculate that they will not return. Only Dr. Sergio C. Stone, their partner, remains in the United States.
Officials with the U.S. attorney’s office could not be reached for comment Monday on whether the absence of Negrete, Asch and Balmaceda will affect the ongoing criminal investigation into the doctors’ practices. No charges have been filed against Negrete or the doctors, and extradition would not be possible without such charges.
Negrete notified federal officials of his plans to return to his homeland and is doing so only for economic reasons, said his lawyer, Robert Van Hoy.
“The stigma [of the raid] made it impossible for him to gain any kind of productive employment in the United States,” Van Hoy said.
The lawyer said he expected his client to return if he is charged with any criminal wrongdoing.
The three doctors have been accused by the University of California of stealing the eggs and embryos of patients without their consent, insurance fraud, misappropriation of university funds and research misconduct at a UC Irvine clinic and an affiliated clinic in Garden Grove. Federal investigators are looking into whether they engaged in mail fraud, smuggling of fertility drugs and tax evasion.
The three have denied knowledge of any wrongdoing.