March 27, 2020.
As we see an increase in prosecutions for “coronavirus-related fraud,” it appears that law enforcement’s efforts are becoming more formal. Today, the U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia announced that he has appointed a federal prosecutor to investigative suspected fraud schemes related to the COVID-19 outbreak. The move comes after AG Barr directed U.S. Attorneys to prioritize such cases.
As examples of coronavirus-fraud, the DOJ’s press release cites:
- Businesses purporting to sell treatments, vaccines, and cures for the coronavirus infection, which do not currently exist.
- Organizations offering test kits distributed from the World Health Organization or Center for Disease Control and Prevention, which are not actually accessible to the public.
- Website operators that create fake websites that appear to contain information about the coronavirus but which actually install malware on the user’s computer.
- Fraudulent charities for coronavirus-related causes.
- Medical providers obtaining patient information for coronavirus testing or treatment and using that information to bill for other procedures or unnecessary procedures
Clearly, the DOJ is casting a wide net when it comes to targeting suspected “coronavirus-related fraud.” While we may see some taking advantage of the uncertainty and fear among the general public, however, not everyone doing so will be violating federal criminal law. Stocking up on toilet paper and selling it at a marked up price, for example, may be wrong, but not criminal.
Click here to read the DOJ press release.