LIFESTYLE

Fugitive Fertility Doctor Captured in Mexico

About 15 years after the University of California, Irvine fertility scandal that caused him to flee the United States, physician Ricardo Asch is facing extradition after being arrested in Mexico City last month.

U.S. Attorneys spokesman Thom Mrozek says Asch was arrested Nov. 3. He and another fertility doctor, José Balmaceda, fled the U.S. in 1996, after they were charged with stealing the eggs and embryos of dozens of women being treated at the UC Irvine Center for Reproductive Health.

American officials have until Jan. 3 to complete the extradition paperwork, and will send it to the State Department this week, according to Mrozek.

Officials in Mexico arrested Asch, who was born in Argentina, based on a red notice posted on Interpol. Mrozek said he doesn't know the circumstances of the arrest.

The UC Irvine doctors were accused of wrongdoing after auditors found that he and Balmaceda had cooked books to hide $1 million in billings. Further scrutiny uncovered unapproved tissue transfers, which was not illegal at the time.

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The Los Angeles Times reports that at least 15 births resulted from the improper egg transfers, and it's unknown whether any of the children have attempted to contact their genetic parents.

In September 2009, the university settled dozens of civil lawsuits over the fertility scandal, paying more than $24 million for 137 incidents.

Sergio Stone, another physician involved in the scandal, was not accused of egg thefts but was convicted in 1997 of fraudulently billing insurance companies. He was fined $50,000 and ordered to serve a year of home detention.

Based on reporting by The Associated Press.

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