The FBI has arrested a man in southern California who claimed to have invented a cure for coronavirus.
In several posts on his Instagram account which lists 2.4 million followers, Keith Middlebrook alleged he had invented a pill to prevent people contracting COVID-19 and treat those already suffering from the coronavirus.
“Yes I have Developed the Cure for the CoronaVirus COVID-19,” the 53-year-old wrote in one post.
“After 6 Weeks of Intense Focus and Development (and very little sleep). I am currently going into Mass Production.”
In another he added: “This pill I have designed makes anyone completely IMMUNE to the Virus COVID-19 disease coronavirus.”
In a video that has been watched more than 450,000 times, he claimed: “Yes I created the cure that shuts down the COVID-19, that makes the cells from the coronavirus detach, release and die within 48 hours.”
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He was detained while delivering pills to an undercover agent, according to US media reports.
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In a bid to lure investors in his company Quantum Prevention CV Inc with promises of big profits, he also claimed to have Earvin “Magic” Johnson on his board – who investigators confirmed had no involvement.
Middlebrook was arrested on Wednesday on a federal complaint of wire fraud, which carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison if convicted.
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US Attorney General William Barr this warned: “The pandemic is dangerous enough without wrongdoers seeking to profit from public panic and this sort of conduct cannot be tolerated.”
False claims about the coronavirus and bogus cures have circulated on social media, often attracting hundreds of shares.
There is currently no vaccine for the coronavirus, and medical experts worldwide have said the best way to prevent getting infected with the disease is to avoid being exposed to it.
Last week, US customs officers in Los Angeles intercepted a package containing 60 fake kits labelled “Anti-Pathogenic treatment” which had been sent from the UK.