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Doctor arrested in Calif. fertility scandal

/ Source: The Associated Press

Federal officials are working to extradite a fugitive physician who was arrested in Mexico City last month, 14 years after an indictment in a fertility scandal at the University of California Irvine.

U.S. Attorneys spokesman Thom Mrozek says Ricardo Asch was arrested Nov. 3, about 15 years after he and another fertility doctor, Jose Balmaceda, were charged with stealing the eggs and embryos of dozens of women being treated at the UC Irvine Center for Reproductive Health.

Both doctors fled the United States in 1996 following their indictments.

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 based on a 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 Asch and Balmaceda had cooked books to hide $1 million in billings. Further scrutiny uncovered unapproved tissue transfers, which was not illegal at the time.

The Los Angeles Times reports that at least 15 births resulted from the improper egg transfers, and it's unknown whether any 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.