Meck County DA asked to investigate lab accused of swabbing cheeks for $5, calling it COVID tests

CHARLOTTE — State health officials have asked the Mecklenburg County District Attorney’s Office to investigate a local lab that is accused of paying people $5 to swab their cheeks under the guise of a COVID test.

On Mach 9, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services said it was investigating the National Institute of Molecular Diagnostics. Now, state health officials said it has referred the matter to the Mecklenburg County District Attorney’s Office for further legal investigations.

Earlier in March, NCDHHS and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid said NIMD is not registered with them as a COVID-19 testing lab.

Channel 9 reached out to the district attorney Thursday, and it said it “does not comment on pending investigations or potential investigations.”

Report Joe Bruno reached out to NIMD, and the head said they were not aware of the investigation and directed Bruno to his attorney. We have not heard back from the attorney at this point.

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This comes after another concerned Charlotte-Mecklenburg family spoke out after their child’s school bus driver swabbed his mouth and gave him $5.

Thirteen-year-old Byron Jimenez showed a Channel 9 reporter how the bus driver swabbed his cheek.

Jimenez is one of several Ridge Road Middle School students who got $5 in exchange for an alleged COVID-19 test that parents said they knew nothing about until after it happened.

“I heard one of the kids say that the bus driver told them to be quiet or shy or they’re going to get in trouble,” he said. “And she will take them for $5.”

(Timeline: Here’s what Channel 9 knows so far)

The seventh grader said the bus driver had him write his name and birthday on a piece of paper.

At first, Jimenez said he was scared the test would come back positive, now he’s afraid what the bus driver did with it.

“Last night I couldn’t really sleep good, and I asked my sister if I can sleep with her,” he said.

Jimenez’s mom, Maybel Osorio, isn’t scared. She’s angry.

“I feel so mad, so frustrated, because she doesn’t have the right to do any test to my son,” Osorio said. “I didn’t sign any paper. Even the school, nobody has asked.”

Channel 9 still doesn’t know why the bus driver would do this and CMS hasn’t updated us on the investigation, only saying that the bus driver is suspended.

Osorio wants answers.

“First thing, I want to see her in the jail and provide all the information on why’d she do that and who she worked for,” she said.

Mecklenburg County Health Director Dr. Raynard Washington told Channel 9′s Joe Bruno that no one should be paid to take a COVID-19 test. The whole point is to diagnose and find out if you are sick.

As Channel 9′s investigation into the cheek swabbing has continued, reporter John Paul discovered a possible link between the CMS incident and a company that may have been swabbing people outside a homeless shelter.

During a visit to the area around the homeless shelter earlier this week, Paul met a man who received a COVID-19 test for money. The man showed Paul a business card for the “National Institute of Molecular Diagnostics.”

At the beginning of March, Channel 9 learned the parents who first reported that their kids were swabbed by the CMS bus driver had heard that name before.

Students said the bus driver who paid them $5 had the website for NIMD displayed while the kids were swabbed.

The parents shared a screenshot of texts from Feb. 18, where she was talking about the company. That’s 10 days before Channel 9 began its investigation and well before we knew about the lab.

Channel 9 contacted the Guilford County Health Department, who said they’ve worked with the company in a limited capacity in the past and had no complaints.

We’ve asked the NIMD if the bus driver works for them.

They sent the following statement to Channel 9:

“National Institute of Molecular Diagnostics, LLC. (NIMD) is investigating the allegation that a school bus driver provided COVID testing to some Charlotte Mecklenburg students without parental consent. We have confirmed the person who administered these tests was not working within the scope or authority of NIMD at the time that these COVID tests were administered. There is currently an ongoing investigation. NIMD will continue to monitor the situation pending the results of the investigation.”

This is an ongoing investigation. Check back with wsoctv.com for updates.

(WATCH BELOW: County health director alarmed after reports of CMS bus driver giving students COVID-19 swab tests)