Federal prosecutors charged a man in Southern California for hawking a fake cure for the coronavirus and soliciting investors into a company to market the phony treatment.
In a statement, the Justice Department said Keith Lawrence Middlebrook was arrested after trying to sell pills to an undercover agent that was posing as an investor.
Officials said Middlebrook posted a video onto his Instagram page stating he had created a cure for the deadly virus while showing a syringe filled with a clear liquid.
"During these difficult days, scams like this are using blatant lies to prey upon our fears and weaknesses," said United States Attorney Nick Hanna. "While this may be the first federal criminal case in the nation stemming from the pandemic, it certainly will not be the last. I again am urging everyone to be extremely wary of outlandish medical claims and false promises of immense profits. And to those who perpetrate these schemes, know that federal authorities are out in force to protect all Americans, and we will move aggressively against anyone seeking to cheat the public during this critical time."
Prosecutors said Middlebrook claimed former Los Angeles Lakers star Earvin "Magic" Johnson was a member of his company Quantum Prevention CV's board of directors. Still, Johnson told investigators he knew nothing about the company, the statement read.
According to an affidavit, Middlebrook sent text messages about a patient in Los Angeles who "got up and walked out 51 hours after my injection."
"During these difficult days, scams like this are using blatant lies to prey upon our fears and weaknesses," Hanna said.
Middlebrook was charged with one count of attempted wire fraud, which carries a statutory maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison, officials said.
There are no known cures for the coronavirus, but scientists are working on producing a vaccine.