Mexico releases fertility doctor in Calif. case

AP News
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Posted: Mar 23, 2011 8:53 PM
Mexico releases fertility doctor in Calif. case

A fugitive doctor at the heart of a scandal involving the taking of human eggs at a University of California fertility center was freed from jail in Mexico City after a judge determined the charges against him were not serious enough to deny bail.

The judge allowed Dr. Ricardo Asch to be freed on bail of about $83,000 (1 million pesos), an employee of the Mexican attorney general's office told The Associated Press Wednesday.

The employee was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

The Associated Press called Asch's attorney, Eliel Chemerinski, seeking comment but received no immediate response.

Asch was a prominent fertility specialist at the UC Irvine Center for Reproductive Health in the 1990s.

He has denied wrongdoing and blamed his clinic subordinates for improper egg and embryo transfers.

At the time, it was not illegal to take human reproductive material.

However, Asch and colleagues Jose Balmaceda and Sergio Stone were indicted by a federal grand jury on multiple charges of mail fraud and income-tax evasion.

Asch and Balmaceda fled the country _ Asch to Mexico and Argentina, and Balmaceda to Chile, the Orange County Register reported. Stone was convicted in 1997 of fraudulently billing insurance companies and fined $50,000.

Asch set up a fertility practice in Mexico City, where he was arrested on Nov. 3.

Asch's whereabouts were unknown. If he was permitted to leave Mexico, it could complicate efforts to have him face trial in the U.S. in the case.

Prosecutors, who only recently learned Asch was no longer in custody, told the Los Angeles Times they have asked Mexican officials for an explanation and planned to continue seeking his extradition.

"We still expect the authorities in Mexico to give full consideration to our request" to return Asch, Assistant U.S. Attorney Douglas McCormick told the Times.

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Associated Press writer Mark Stevenson in Mexico City contributed to this report.

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Information from: Los Angeles Times, http://www.latimes.com