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FBI arrests man for hawking fake ‘coronavirus prevention pill’

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The Justice Division arrested a California man for hawking a pretend COVID-19 treatment, marking the primary federal felony case tied to the novel coronavirus. Keith Lawrence Middlebrook allegedly marketed on Instagram that he’d invented a “coronavirus prevention capsule” and an injectable “COVID-19 formulation vaccine treatment,” falsely claimed that basketball participant Earvin “Magic” Johnson was on his firm’s board, and promised potential traders thousands and thousands of {dollars} in returns. He was arrested after delivering his “prevention drugs” to an undercover FBI agent.

There isn’t any vaccine or remedy for the novel coronavirus, though researchers are conducting scientific trials for each. However Middlebrook claimed he was about to mass-produce his personal treatment. The Justice Division says he garnered round 2 million views on YouTube and Instagram, and he spoke to at the very least two folks about investments: one FBI agent and one cooperating witness. He’s now charged with tried wire fraud, which carries a most penalty of 20 years in jail.

In response to California court docket data, Middlebrook was beforehand arrested for wire fraud in 2014 after allegedly operating a fraudulent credit score rating enchancment enterprise. The case was dismissed in 2016.

The Justice Division and different federal companies have urged residents to report coronavirus-related fraud. The Meals and Drug Administration despatched stop and desist letters to several companies selling important oils or ingestible silver for COVID-19 prevention, and the Justice Division filed its first enforcement motion over the weekend, issuing a temporary restraining order in opposition to a web site promoting pretend “vaccine kits” to gather bank card data from consumers.

State attorneys basic have additionally cracked down on virus-related scams, together with New York AG Letitia James who censured radio host Alex Jones for advertising and marketing toothpaste and different merchandise as coronavirus killers. Missouri’s lawyer basic sued to stop televangelist Jim Bakker from promoting his personal ineffective and probably harmful remedy.

US Deputy Legal professional Common Jeffrey Rosen has also said that individuals who deliberately expose others to the novel coronavirus could possibly be charged underneath federal terrorism legal guidelines because the virus meets the definition of a “organic agent.” Nonetheless, there have been no arrests for intentional publicity to date.

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