Southland Prosecutors, Law Enforcement Urges Public to Scrutinize Coronavirus ‘Products’

Published : Monday, March 23, 2020 | 12:54 PM

Nick Hanna

Southland prosecutors and law enforcement agencies asked people Monday to be vigilant and report scams or incidents of false advertising for products related to the coronavirus outbreak.

“Our primary goal is to maintain safety and security across the seven counties we serve,” United States Attorney Nick Hanna said. “Even as we come together as a nation to deal with the threat of COVID-19, there are individuals among us and across the globe who are attempting to use this crisis as an opportunity to exploit our fears and take advantage of our generosity.”

Hanna said he has appointed Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Johns to be the office’s coronavirus fraud coordinator.

In addition to scams, federal prosecutors are looking to apprehend people who distribute ransomware from malicious websites and apps that promise to share coronavirus-related information, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District, which is the largest in the country.

The Central District office serves a district of seven counties, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, and Ventura, with a population that is also the largest of any district in the nation.

Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer’s staff is also “ aggressively pursuing any COVID-19 scams or price-gouging,” he said.

“We are asking anyone who sees scams, like at-home COVID-19 testing kits or instances of price-gouging, to report it to our office online lacityattorney.org/covid19 or by calling 213-978-8340,” Feuer said.

The city attorney since last week has been posting information about price-gouging during the coronavirus outbreak, stressing that retailers are prohibited from raising the price of goods more than 10% during a declared state of emergency.

Capt. Steve Lurie of the Los Angeles Police Department’s Hollywood Division posted a photo Monday on Twitter that showed a bottle of hand sanitizer that was priced at $80 at a local retailer. The typical cost of the product is about $5, Lurie said.

Members of the public are also asked to report suspected fraud schemes related to the coronavirus and COVID-19 by calling the National Center for Disaster Fraud hotline at 1-866-720-5721 or sending complaints to the NCDF e- mail address, disaster@leo.gov.

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