United States Attorney General William Barr directed United States Attorneys nationwide to “remain vigilant in detecting, investigating and prosecuting” criminal activity related to the COVID-19 crisis. “The pandemic is dangerous enough without wrongdoers seeking to profit from public panic and this sort of conduct cannot be tolerated. Every U.S. Attorney’s Office is thus hereby directed to prioritize the detection, investigation, and prosecution of all criminal conduct related to the current pandemic,” Attorney General Barr said in a March 16, 2020 Memorandum to all United States Attorneys.
In a March 24, 2020 Memorandum, Barr directed federal prosecutors to focus their attention on the following crimes:
- Fraud schemes: mail fraud, wire fraud, computer fraud, healthcare fraud, conspiracy to commit fraud, identification fraud and aggravated identity theft, fraud in connection with major disasters and emergencies, and trafficking counterfeit goods.
While not specifically listed in Barr’s March 24 Memorandum, expect post-funding prosecutions for fraud related to the CARES Act/Paycheck Protection Program Loans.
- Sale of fake drugs and cures, which may include the introduction of misbranded or banned hazardous substances into interstate commerce, the introduction of misbranded or adulterated drugs or devices into interstate commerce or the sale, manufacture, distribution, or importation of a consumer or other product that is not in conformity with consumer product safety regulations.
- Malicious hoaxes and threats targeting individuals or the general public to the purposeful exposure and infection of others with COVID-19.
- Hoarding medical supplies or devices beyond what is reasonably needed daily, or for the purpose of selling them in excess of prevailing market prices, by individuals or businesses.
- Violation of anti-trust laws by individuals or businesses who conspire to fix prices, rig bids, or allocate markets with respect to COVID-19 materials, or who agree to anticompetitive and/or monopolization agreements related to critical materials needed to respond to COVID-19.
Based upon the directives of Attorney General Barr, expect to see aggressive investigations and prosecutions of individuals suspected of committing any of the above crimes during the COVID-19 crisis.
If you are charged with a crime, contact one of our criminal defense attorneys immediately at 704-372-6373, or by e-mail: Elizabeth F. Greene ([email protected]), J. David Kernodle ([email protected]), George N. Miller ([email protected]), or Todd Owens ([email protected]).