OKLAHOMA CITY – Assistant U.S. Attorney Brandon Hale was appointed recently to coordinate investigations and prosecutions of crimes related to the coronavirus pandemic.
Hale, a deputy criminal chief in the U.S. Attorney’s office in Oklahoma City, will serve as the Coronavirus Fraud Coordinator, oversee- ing federal prosecutions of virus scammers. U.S. Attorney General William Barr has directed all federal prosecutors to prioritize the detection, investigation, and prosecution of criminal conduct related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The pandemic is dangerous enough,” Barr said, “without wrongdoers seeking to profit from public panic, and this sort of conduct cannot be tolerated.” “Criminals thinking about trying to scam others during this time of crisis should think again,” said Timothy J. Downing, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Oklahoma.
“Any type of fraudulent activity related to the COVID-19 outbreak is appalling. AUSA Hale, one of the most talented and experienced prosecutors in my office, will lead our efforts to stop these fraudsters, and he will work with our law enforcement partners to hold accountable those who commit related wrongdoing.”
Earlier this month the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Trade Commission warned seven companies to stop selling soaps, sprays and other concoctions by means of false claims that those products can treat the coronavirus or can keep people from contracting the virus. The companies are based in the U.S., Canada and the United Kingdom.
There are no approved treatments for the virus. Potential treatments and vaccines now in testing won’t be ready for several months, officials report. According to the AP, the FDA also said it was working with online sellers such as Amazon and had gotten them to remove more than three dozen fake coronavirus products.
Individuals who believe they may have been the target of a coronavirus-related fraud scheme can file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov. More information about coronavirus scams is also available from the Federal Trade Commission at www.ftc.gov/coronavirus.