FBI arrests Calif. man for touting COVID-19 'cure,' soliciting investments
The suspect posted ads online and met with investors, all the while claiming he had a coronavirus prevention pill
Los Angeles Daily News
LOS ANGELES — A Southern California man who falsely claimed Earvin “Magic” Johnson was on the board of directors for his company was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of wire fraud related to bogus claims he had drugs to prevent and cure coronavirus, officials said.
Keith Lawrence Middlebrook, 53, was arrested by FBI agents, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles said in a statement.
Middlebrook is associated with residences in Newport Beach, Murrieta and Westwood in Los Angeles.
At least 2 million people have seen YouTube and Instagram videos that falsely claim he created a coronavirus prevention pill and an injectable cure for those already infected, U.S. Justice Department officials in the office said in a statement.
The Justice Department said Middlebrook was arrested after a criminal complaint was filed alleging he committed attempted wire fraud, a felony offense that can carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.
“Middlebrook was arrested during a meeting in which he delivered pills – purportedly the treatment that prevents coronavirus infection – to an undercover agent who was posing as an investor,” officials said in a statement.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said there is no vaccine for the coronavirus and no medications approved to treat it, and the best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed.
Middlebrook solicited funds with the promises of massive profits for a company he called Quantum Prevention CV Inc., the Justice Department said.
Officials said that Middlebrook made lofty claims about his cure and preventative medication to a witness who cooperated with investigators.
“I have developed the cure for the coronavirus,” Middlebrook told the witness, according to officials. “An LA Patient tested Positive for Coronavirus, got up and walked out 51 hours after my injection.”
In the same text message, investigators said Middlebrook also wrote, “Investors who come in at ground level say $1 million will parachute with $200M – $300M…conservative minimum.”
Law enforcement officials have reported a rise in fraud schemes during the coronavirus pandemic.