Lawsuit Filed By L.A. City Attorney In COVID-19 Fraud Case

Fake Hand Sanitizer and MaskAccording to WJCT, Los Angeles (L.A.) City Attorney’s Office filed a lawsuit against Wellness Matrix Group (WMGR) to stop the California-based business from preying upon the public by selling fraudulent COVID-19 products. WMGR’s activities were being scrutinized by Congress and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. As previously documented on PSM, WMGR allegedly marketed a hand sanitizer that the company claimed “kills corona on contact” and COVID-19 tests that “are legitimate and have been vetted and approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Association [sic].” At the time WMGR made the latter claim, no at-home COVID-19 tests had been approved for use in the U.S.

With additional time to investigate WMGR, the L.A. City Attorney’s Office filed a lawsuit against the company for allegedly running a “sophisticated and wide-ranging” scheme involving multiple websites and fake scientific studies. In a press release announcing the office’s suit against WMGR, L.A. City Attorney Mike Feuer said, “It’s inexcusable to try to profit from this pandemic at the expense of people’s health. We allege these defendants have been doing just that, engaging in a pattern of misrepresentation to boost their sales that includes fabricating a study to help pitch one of their products, claiming to have government approvals they’ve never had, and more.” According to the complaint, WMGR attached fake government registration numbers and fabricated phony scientific studies and white papers to lend credence to their false claims. The disinfectant marketed by WMGR was not registered either federally or with the state of California, as required by law. Contrary to WMGR’s claims, the COVID-19 serology test marketed by the company was neither approved nor endorsed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). 

The lawsuit seeks to stop the alleged unlawful practices, obtain full restitution for consumers, and civil penalties of up to $2,500 for each violation. City Attorney Feuer worked in collaboration with the FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigations, the EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs, the EPA Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, and EPA Region 9. The case is being litigated by the City Attorney Criminal and Special Litigation Branch, including Will Rivera, Deputy Chief; Christina Tusan, Supervising Deputy City Attorney; and Deputy City Attorneys William Pletcher, Miguel Ruiz, Carr Tekosky, Alex Bergjans, and Rebecca Morse.