As coronavirus has spread, all manner of criminal schemes, many of them stoking fear and panic, have been taking root, USA Today reports. Kentucky authorities are investigating drive-up testing sites, promising same-day results for $250. A Texas-based website offered a coronavirus “vaccine” until authorities won a restraining order against its operators.  In Virginia, telephone scammers, posing as hospital representatives, warned residents of possible virus exposure and tried to lure them to sham test sites. For more than a year, a Georgia man allegedly referred patients to medical testing facilities in return for lucrative kickbacks. Beginning in February, federal prosecutors said, Erik Santos set his sights on a new potential money-maker: the coronavirus. Santos is charged with arranging to be paid kickbacks for each COVID-19 test referred when they were bundled with other, more expensive respiratory examinations.

“While there are people going through what they are going through, you can either go bankrupt or you can prosper,” Santos is said to have boasted in a March 19 telephone call, referring to the pandemic. “Everybody has been chasing the COVID dollar bird.” The Justice Department has directed all 94 U.S. Attorneys to appoint a coordinator for all virus-fraud cases, raising the prospect that those who threatened or attempted to spread the virus could be charged with federal terrorism offenses as the virus could be classified as a biological agent. “Capitalizing on this crisis to reap illicit profits or otherwise preying on Americans is reprehensible and will not be tolerated,” said Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen. New York Attorney General Letitia James on Thursday ordered a Utah company called Finest Herbalist to halt the marketing of a product offered as an effective treatment for COVID-19.

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