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Analysis

DOJ Files First Civil Action for Alleged Coronavirus Fraud

By John Commins  
   March 23, 2020

Federal Court issues temporary restraining order against website offering fake COVID-19 vaccine.

A website selling bogus "Coronavirus Medical Kits" to rattled consumers is the first company to be slapped with a civil fraud complaint by the Department of Justice.

A federal judge in Austin, Texas issued a temporary restraining order on the website "coronavirusmedicalkit.com," which claims to offer consumers access to World Health Organization vaccine kits in exchange for a shipping charge of $4.95, which consumers would pay by entering their credit card information on the website.

"You just need to add water, and the drugs and vaccines are ready to be administered," the website said.

"There are two parts to the kit: one holds pellets containing the chemical machinery that synthesizes the end product, and the other holds pellets containing instructions that tell the drug which compound to create. Mix two parts together in a chosen combination, add water, and the treatment is ready."

DOJ said that "in fact, there are currently no legitimate COVID-19 vaccines and the WHO is not distributing any such vaccine."  

U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman issued a temporary restraining order requiring that the registrar of the fraudulent website – who was not named by DOJ -- immediately block public access to it.

However, the website was still operational at mid-morning Monday.

The action follows U.S. Attorney General William Barr's announcement this weekend that DOJ would prioritize investigations of illegal conducted related to the pandemic.  

In court papers filed Saturday, federal prosecutors accused the website of  "engaging in a wire fraud scheme seeking to profit from the confusion and widespread fear surrounding COVID-19."

 "The Department of Justice will not tolerate criminal exploitation of this national emergency for personal gain," said Assistant Attorney General Jody Hunt of the Department of Justice's Civil Division. 

“You just need to add water, and the drugs and vaccines are ready to be administered.”

John Commins is a content specialist and online news editor for HealthLeaders, a Simplify Compliance brand.


KEY TAKEAWAYS

A federal judge issued a temporary restraining order on the website "coronavirusmedicalkit.com," which claims to offer consumers access to WHO vaccine kits.

DOJ said that "in fact, there are currently no legitimate COVID-19 vaccines and the WHO is not distributing any such vaccine." 

The action follows U.S. Attorney General William Barr's announcement this weekend that DOJ would prioritize investigations of illegal conducted related to the pandemic. 


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