Fertility Scandal Goes South

Jose D. Ruiz | Staff Photographer

Ricardo Asch, a doctor who committed unethical crimes at UC Irvine’s Center for Reproductive Health Fertility Clinic in the 1990s, was recently found and arrested in Mexico City after being on the run for 15 years.

In the 1990s Ricardo Asch and accomplices Jose Balmaceda and Sergio Stone switched the embryos of dozens of women at UC Irvine 15 years ago. Fifteen infants were said to have been born after the eggs were transferred to infertile women in order to allow them to have children with a total of approximately 60 women involved in the scandal.

U.S. officials are working on extraditing the criminal as soon as possible to try him here in Southern California. The doctors were not charged with wrongful treatment, but instead with tax evasion and fraud. At the time, harvesting human tissue was not illegal therefore the charges made against all three medical professionals were driven by tax evasion and fraud.

Balmaceda and Asch were found to not have reported approximately $1 million in billings hence the tax evasion and fraud charges. After the clinic situation was exposed in 1995 both doctors went into hiding.

Asch was found to be practicing medicine in Buenos Aires for the past few years and picked up in Mexico City. Balmaceda went to Chile. Sergio Stone the last doctor was charged a fee of $50,000 in 1997 along with a year of home detention. His minor punishment was in correlation to no evidence being found linking Sergio Stone to the actual stealing of eggs and giving them to other women.

UC Irvine paid over $27 million to settle about 140 lawsuits regarding the fertility scandal.

Renee Presson, a woman from Sacramento, found out that four of her eggs were given to another woman whom she didn’t know. This woman then gave birth to a male child. Also, when the news about the scandal came out in 1995 she stated, “To find out you may have a 7-year-old child out there is devastating.”

Along with the scandal in 1995 it also came out that a few officials at UC Irvine knew about the scandal and some were told to not report anything to anyone. In 1995 the OC Register found a letter sent to Bob Chatwin the UC Irvine auditor, that explained that Debra Krahel, Associate Director of Ambulatory care at UC Irvine at the time, was sent on leave after expressing problems and concerns and then was told not to say anything about her concerns to anyone by Mary Piccione the Medical Center Executive Director at the time.