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Fertility Doctor Denies Role in Errors

Clinic scandal: Testifying in Tijuana to avoid arrest in U.S., Ricardo Asch says aides were responsible for any mistakes at UC Irvine.

January 20, 1996|JULIE MARQUIS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

TIJUANA — The fertility specialist at the heart of the UC Irvine scandal testified Friday that university employees, including a medical assistant and a biologist without a college degree, were responsible for any errors that occurred in the clinics where he practiced.

Dr. Ricardo H. Asch, speaking for the first time under oath at a deposition in a Tijuana hotel, said he was not involved in running the clinics beyond performing surgery, according to attorneys who attended the closed deposition.

Asch said he did not match donors and recipients, did not obtain patient consents and had no way of knowing how any mistakes occurred, according to those who attended.

"When this deposition is over, I hope the lawyers and the media will realize that the finger of wrongdoing has been pointing at the wrong person," said Lloyd Charton, Asch's attorney, in a news conference after the day's session.

The testimony met with incredulity on the part of several former patients and their attorneys, as well as former employees.

"If you believe in the Easter bunny, then you can believe Dr. Asch," said Larry Feldman, an attorney for two patients who have sued Asch, his partners and the university for allegedly stealing their eggs and embryos and implanting them in other patients.

Asch, with two of his partners, is accused by the University of California of misappropriating the eggs and embryos of scores of women, as well as insurance fraud, financial wrongdoing and research misconduct. His deposition was intended to provide information in the vast majority of more than 25 lawsuits against him, his partners and the university.

As his own attorney acknowledged Friday, he testified in Tijuana because he fears arrest in the United States. Federal authorities are investigating him and his partners for possible tax evasion, mail fraud and fertility drug smuggling.

Asch moved to Mexico shortly after his Newport Beach home was raided by criminal investigators in September.

The doctor arrived at the deposition Friday morning through a hotel service door, striding quickly and without comment past a crowd of journalists. His attorney later said the doctor did not want to violate the integrity of the deposition process by trying his case in the media.

Asch reportedly testified in the deposition that he did not run the donor programs at UC Irvine or at a formerly affiliated clinic in Garden Grove.

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