COVID-19 fraud and counterfeits

Homeland Security (HSI) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents seized:

Items seized in Buffalo, May 2020

Counterfeits seized in Buffalo. Source: Homeland Security Investigations

Since March 23, CBP officers at the Ports of Harrisburg, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Washington have made 18 seizures of unapproved and counterfeit COVID-19 test kits, counterfeit N95 respirator masks; unapproved and potentially counterfeit medicines, and (for something different) more than 67,000 counterfeit diabetes test strips.

 

The Justice Department charged a Gresham, Oregon resident for smuggling chloroquine from China and offering it for sale as a coronavirus treatment and an Atlanta, Georgia-area man for taking more than $7.4 million in payment for face masks and other equipment he had no access to.

 

The Food and Drug Administration is seeking an injunction to stop an Oklahoma-based company, Xephyr LLC (doing business as N-Ergetics) from selling colloidal silver products as a remedy for COVID-19.

 

The Associated Press has tracked the distribution of millions of counterfeit N95 respirator masks “considered inadequate for medical protection” to front line workers in Florida, California, Massachusetts, Virginia, and West Virginia in April. According to the AP’s reporting, these masks are still in use.

 

Officials in Washington State announced that they would be suspending unemployment benefits payments for as much as two days after an uptick in identity fraud.

 

Attorney Generals in Michigan and New York added their voices to other AGs, warning residents about the threat of coronavirus scams.

 

PSM’s weekly video focused on COVID-19-related financial scams that have become ever-present in recent months. Watch it here. 

Other counterfeit drugs in the news

Caption: Counterfeit Percocet pills seized in Georgia in 2017 Source: Bibb County Sheriff’s Office

Counterfeit Xanax and opioid pills laced with suspected fentanyl were reported in Queen Creek and Yuma Arizona, Franklin, Massachusetts and Yonkers, New York. Authorities in Douglas County, Nevada reported fentanyl poisonings. Fresno County, California, Fort Wayne, Indiana, Oklahoma County, Oklahoma and Grundy County, Tennessee reported fatalities as a result of the counterfeits.

 

In Washington State, two men have been charged with selling the counterfeit Percocet pills that killed a Navy sailor on April 18, 2020, and a former Whatcom County resident has been arrested for allegedly selling the pills that killed a Bellingham man in November 2019.

Even as we are dealing with the pandemic, PSM is keeping a steady eye on public reports of dangerous counterfeit drugs. Check back for next week’s summary.