Federal investigators searched a California DNA testing lab Wednesday and hauled away boxes of documents as part of a health care fraud investigation, according to former employees familiar with the matter.
Proove Biosciences, an Irvine, Calif., firm that purports to determine a patient’s likelihood of becoming addicted to opioids, based on genetic tests and questionnaires, was raided by FBI agents and officers from the inspector general’s office of the Department of Health and Human Services.
About 25 agents arrived at 7:30 a.m. and banged on the company’s front door before gaining entrance and carrying away boxes of documents, according to local television news reports and the former employees, who spoke anonymously out of concern over possible legal reprisals.
The former employees told STAT that Proove told employees to stay home for the day, and that offices of doctors affiliated with the company in California, Florida, and Kentucky were also raided by federal agents.
FBI spokeswoman Cathy Kramer told reporters only that the investigation involved “health care fraud,” that no arrests had yet been made, and the affidavit supporting the search warrant was under seal.
Proove CEO Brian Meshkin could not be reached for comment. The company has previously denied wrongdoing and said it has followed both “the letter and the spirit” of the law.
It released a statement late Thursday, saying in part, “Yesterday, federal agents came to the Irvine, California office of Proove Biosciences to serve a subpoena and execute a search warrant solely related to the collection of documents. This action was initiated by the U.S. Attorney’s office in the Southern District of California in San Diego. In the spirit of full cooperation, we have accommodated their requests. Despite some of the media coverage of this event, there was no “raid”, nor have there been any “arrests” or “indictments” issued. We will continue to cooperate with any future requests for information from the government.”
STAT reported in February that the FBI and inspector general were investigating Proove, which critics say has exploited public angst over opioid addiction for profit. A regulatory loophole allows many genetic testing companies, including Proove, to operate without government oversight on the medical value of their tests.
Proove, until recently one of the nation’s fastest-growing small businesses, lost many of its largest accounts with doctors’ offices who order Proove tests, and fired much of its staff, shortly after STAT’s report, former employees said.
Many Proove employees operated out of doctors’ offices, where former employees asserted patients were pressured to accept unnecessary tests. Experts said many doctors ordered tests in ways that suggested that they and the company could have been violating laws against kickbacks.
The firm’s tests of DNA, captured by swabbing inside a patient’s cheek, were unreliable, and many doctors ignored the results, according to former managers. Current and former employees also said unorthodox billing practices brought in million of dollars from Medicare and private insurers.
This story has been updated with a statement from Proove Biosciences.
DECEMBER 24, 2018 AT 7:39 PM
Brian Meshkin is a thief and a crook with no ethical or moral foundation to run a healthcare company. Unlike other fields, healthcare is highly structured. Everything follows a standard process to ensure the safety and security of the patient. This means there is little or no room for creativity. Brian Meshkin is by nature a con man and charlatan who will do anything including bending the rules to make money. Such a psychopathic personality inevitably puts him on a collision course with the authorities.
It is a shame the system didn’t stop a giant scam like Proove earlier and an article like this took so long to shine the light on Proove. The points raised in this and the other STAT articles are only about a tenth of the wrongdoing at Proove. The place was terribly dysfunctional.
To describe Mr. Meshkin as an incompetent CEO will not do justice to the level of incompetence at this company. He is very sanctimonious and not very bright. He made poor decisions in hiring, promotions and in management. Serious ethical violations were so commonplace that one wonders if the products were for dogs and not human beings. Infighting, backstabbing and lack of communication between teams put the company almost in a perpetual state of near anarchy.
Mr. Meshkin’s greed was on the verge of kleptomania. I hope the Feds put him where he belongs: Prison
Proove is shutting down. Massive lay off yesterday and bank accounts are frozen can’t even pay offer their employees a severance package.
Is CMS CLIA doing anything about this? Immediate Jeopardy?
As a person who survived addiction I am glad these scammers got shut down. I like doing drugs cause it seemed to help with my PTSD from child abuse at first.
Alcohol and addiction “runs in familes” that is such a crock so dead voting democrat or republican or liking certain sports teams and has nothing to do with genetics.
So much garbage science in the addictions field.
I feel bad for the employees olwho they are no going to have a job if the FBI close this company. They already laid off 50 employees and now they are down sizing in building too per anonymous employees they are moving remaining employees in the the lab and closing their other building. Brian Meshkin is a crook giving his employees fake stocks that aren’t even worth the paper they are printed on and telling them that when the company goes public they are going to be rich just a bunch of lies.
23andme should be next for the Feds. They farm out your swab to Labcorp in Burlington and use the data to create a very nonscientific horoscope full of very generic info. Scamming the public for years now. Putting Google money pressure on FDA with attorneys. FDA knows it is pseudo junk science but are too backed up to fight them off. I know I work for CDER
Brian Meshkin started well but somewhere along the lines, he lost his way. He became arrogant, contemptuous of people and feeling above board. The problems Proove faces today are his doing. His greed and lack of intelligence is why Proove is about to fold up. The money was easy, any fool could have achieved what he did with those fake tests and lack of fda oversight. But he still blew it. He has brought shame to his family and children. Terrible fellow.
Proove response is a joke. Same old talking point. Brian meshkin is criminal and the courts will prove that in due course. There is nothing to defend.
Proove’s response: http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/proove-responds-to-inaccurate-stories-from-stat-news-and-yesterdays-related-federal-document-subpoena-and-search-warrant-300471499.html
Peter Beltran, that’s funny since you are the person convicted for FDA fraud in US District Court which is why you were terminated as a distributor so many years ago. Sour grapes?
You have the wrong person in mind. I am not Peter beltran.
Finally, Brian Meshkin will have is day in court. The thief has stolen 100s of millions of dollars selling fake test. He walks around like the smartest guy in the room, talks down everyone, acts like he dines with Jesus while engaging in one of the largest medicare fraud in US history. What a disgrace.
Well said, Peter. Hope the FBI checks any off-shore bank accounts CEO Brian Meshkin has and money given to his family – and that the money all goes back to the patients and U.S. tax payers Meshkin stole from. He belongs in prison.
Doing so would set an example for future lab ‘executives’ that pay veiled kickbacks to physicians. Throw the book at him. Repeatedly.
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