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A Southern California man was arrested for allegedly soliciting investments in a company he claimed had developed a cure for COVID-19, according to a statement by the Department of Justice on Wednesday.
Keith Lawrence Middlebrook, 53, claimed to have developed a "patent pending cure,” as well as a treatment that prevents coronavirus infection, the statement alleged. Health officials have stated that there is no vaccine for the virus.
He was arrested during a meeting in which he delivered pills to an undercover agent posing as an investor, officials said.
“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."
The department said he also claimed that NBA Hall of Famer and former Los Angeles Lakers great Earvin “Magic” Johnson was a board member of the company, Quantum Prevention CV Inc.
On his Instagram -- which has 2.4 million followers, -- Middlebrook posted several videos claiming to have developed a cure for COVID-19 and a pill that makes you immune to the virus, the affidavit said.
"Yes, I have created the pill that makes you IMMUNE to COVID-19!," Middlebrook allegedly wrote in one post. "This pill I have designed makes anyone completely IMMUNE to the Virus COVID-19 disease coronavirus. * NOTE: All Haters and Ignorant comments are Deleted and Blocked as Fast as they post."
He was charged by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles with one count of attempted wire fraud, which carries a statutory maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison.
The investigation will be conducted by the FBI and his initial court appearance is expected to be held on Thursday afternoon in Los Angeles, the statement added.