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Doctor in UC Irvine fertility scandal released from custody in Mexico City

March 23, 2011 |  8:29 am

Asch Dr. Ricardo Asch, the controversial figure at the center of the UC Irvine fertility clinic scandal, has been freed from custody in Mexico City.

Asch fled the United States in 1995 amid allegations that he and his partner, Dr. Jose Balmaceda, took eggs and embryos from patients without their consent and gave them to other women. He was arrested in November and being held in Mexico, awaiting extradition to the United States.

But The Times has learned that he was freed by Mexican authorities, something officials here were not aware of. They said Tuesday they were seeking an explanation from Mexico about the handling of the extradition.

"We still expect the authorities in Mexico to give full consideration to our request" to return Asch, said Assistant U.S. Atty. Douglas McCormick, the prosecutor on the case.

Asch, who headed the internationally acclaimed Center for Reproductive Health, was indicted in 1997 on federal mail fraud and tax evasion charges. Details of his detention were not made public, and U.S. prosecutors said they met a year-end deadline to file extradition papers. He has denied wrongdoing.

Described at the time as an unprecedented breach of medical ethics, the fertility fraud led to the live births of at least 15 children and lawsuits by couples whose lives were turned upside down by the revelations. The University of California, which was accused of trying to cover up the doctors' wrongdoing, has paid about $25 million to settle 140 lawsuits.

Read the full story: Doctor linked to UC Irvine fertility scandal released from custody in Mexico

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-- Kim Christensen

Photo: Dr. Richardo Asch in 1995. Credit: Alex Garcia / Los Angeles Times

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