Doctor at Center of UCI Fertility Scandal Agrees to Plead Guilty

SANTA ANA (CNS) – One of the physicians at the center of a UC Irvine fertility clinic scandal involving the switching of frozen embryos of dozens of women without their knowledge has agreed to plead guilty to tax fraud in the case, according to court papers obtained today.  

Jose Balmaceda signed a plea agreement Aug. 11 that was filed in federal court in Santa Ana on Tuesday.  

Balmaceda had fled to Chile as the scandal unfolded in the mid-1990s, but surrendered to authorities and made his first appearance in court on Monday, according to court records.  

A pretrial conference is scheduled for April 15 before U.S. District Judge Josephine Staton.  

Co-defendant Dr. Ricardo Asch is still residing outside of the country. Asch was arrested in November 2010 in Mexico and was awaiting extradition at the time, but was never brought back to the U.S. and it was not immediately clear why not.  

Co-defendant Sergio Stone was convicted in 1997 of insurance fraud and fined $50,000 and confined to home detention for a year.  

Balmaceda admitted in his plea agreement that he under reported his taxes in 1991 and 1992 under a scheme in which he and the other doctors at the clinic would take cash from some clients and fail to report the income.  

Balmaceda agreed to pay $19,904 and $16,415 for tax years 1991 and 1992 respectively, according to the agreement. He admitted receiving $64,208 and $52,951 during those years in unreported income.  

The Orange County Register won a Pulitzer Prize when it broke the story in 1995 that Asch and Balmaceda stole eggs and embryos and gave them to other women, which wasn’t illegal at the time, but they were accused of not reporting $1 million in billings, which led to indictments on fraud and tax evasion.

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