The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) is cracking down on fraud related to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, filing a civil complaint against the operators of a website that offered consumers access to World Health Organization (WHO) vaccine kits. “In fact, there are currently no legitimate COVID-19 vaccines and the WHO is not distributing any such vaccine,” the department said in a news release.
The operators of the website “coronavirusmedicalkit.com” are accused of “engaging in a wire fraud scheme seeking to profit from the confusion and widespread fear surrounding COVID-19.” U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman also issued a temporary restraining order requiring the website’s operators to immediately take down the website.
“The Department of Justice will not tolerate criminal exploitation of this national emergency for personal gain,” said Assistant Attorney General Judy Hunt of the Department of Justice’s Civil Division. “We will use every resource at the government’s disposal to act quickly to shut down these most despicable of scammers, whether they are defrauding consumers, committing identity theft, or delivering malware.”
Last week, Attorney General William Barr called on the public to report any suspected fraud schemes related to COVID-19 by calling the National Center for Disaster Fraud hotline at 866-720-5721 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. He also directed all U.S. Attorneys to investigate and prosecute any individuals or businesses selling fake COVID-19 cures or vaccines.
Earlier this month, New York Attorney General Letitia James ordered far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones to stop promoting and selling products on his InfoWars website store claiming to treat or cure COVID-19, including a Superblue Toothpaste that he allegedly claimed “kills the whole SARS-corona family at point-blank range.”
James also sent a cease-and-desist letter to televangelist and doomsday preacher Jim Bakker for promoting and selling fraudulent COVID19 products on his show and website. Specifically, Bakker allowed guest Sherrill Sellman on his show to promote her pricey dietary supplement Silver Solution, which was also available for purchase on his website. “Well, let’s say it hasn’t been tested on this strain of the coronavirus,” Sellman said during a February taping of the show, “but it’s been tested on other strains of the coronavirus and has been able to eliminate it within 12 hours.”
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Federal Trade Commission have also issued warning letters to Bakker and other companies for selling fraudulent COVID-19 vaccines, cures and treatments.