A 34-year-old Georgia woman found out the hard way that the Department of Justice wasn’t kidding about prosecuting what it believes are “[i]ndividuals and businesses selling fake cures for COVID-19 online.” Rong Sun (a.k.a. Vicky Sun) was hit with federal charges for allegedly importing an unregistered pesticide from Japan, selling it on eBay (despite eBay’s warnings), touting it as a product that protects people from viruses, and then mailing the illicit pesticide in question to a lol-ing undercover agent.
Per the DOJ:
Virus Shut Out and Stop The Virus are not registered with the EPA in accordance with FIFRA. They cannot be legally imported into the United States and may not legally be sold or distributed within the United States. In late March 2020, EPA began researching on eBay.com the product Virus Shut Out to determine approximately whether and how much of the product was for sale in the United States. Within the 100 miles search of Atlanta, Georgia, approximately six listings appeared for Virus Shut Out. A seller listed as Strawberry1011 had five separate listings for Virus Shut Out.
Authorities say Sun is Strawberry1011 and Strawberry2520. According to the government, eBay warned the defendant not to sell the product on or about March 27 and on or about March 30, noting that listings had been removed.
But on April 2, a lol-ing undercover agent baited the defendant into shipping the product. The defendant made no promises that the Virus Shut Out product would shut out COVID-19:
Strawberry2520 responded using [email protected] The UCA and the seller discussed the likelihood of the Virus Shut Out and the Stop The Virus product protecting the UCA from the “19 virus”. The seller responded to the UCA and stated, “This card is like air refresher to keep common bacteria away from you within 0.5 meter circle from the product. It just add one more layer of protection. We not guarantee to keep Covid-19 away from you.let me know if you still want them. I can cancel the order if you change your mind. Thank you!” (At the bottom of the screenshot message from [email protected] was the message “Sent from my iPhone.”) The UCA responded, “I bought two products. One says air sanitization. Will either of them help me against corona virus?” The seller responded, “Hi dear, We will cancel your order and five you a full refund for both of items. My list have been removed by eBay because they have made the decision to prohibit the sale of mask/sanitizer/wipes/toilet paper rolls.. on ebay. Sorry for any inconvenience.” (At the bottom of the screenshot message from [email protected] was the message “Sent from my iPhone.”). The UCA responded, “Hi there Well since I’ve already ordered it, you can go ahead
and send it to me. I’d still like to try it. Every little bit helps right, lol. Thx for everything. When do you think I should receive it?”
The order shipped the next day.
U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia Byung J. Pak said prosecuting such alleged frauds are a top priority right now.
“The defendant took advantage of the current worldwide crisis to sell an illegal product with the claim that it protects individuals from viruses,” Pak said in a DOJ press release about the case. “We will take quick action through the Georgia COVID-19 Task Force to put a stop to criminals preying on the public with Coronavirus-related fraud schemes.”
“Based on the above information, I respectfully submit there is probable cause to believe that RONG SUN a/k/a VICKY SUN knowingly distributed and sold a pesticide that is not registered and that is adulterated and misbranded; (2) fraudulently and knowingly imported and brought into the United States pesticide that is not registered and that is adulterated and misbranded contrary to law; and (3) knowingly deposited for mailing and delivery and caused to be delivered by mail, a poison, hazardous material, and a natural and artificial material which may kill and injure another, and injure the mails and other property, in violation of 7 U.S.C. §§ 136j(a)(1)(A), 136j(a)(1)(E), and 136l(b)(1)(B) (FIFRA), and 18 U.S.C. §§ 545 (smuggling) and 1716 (illegal mailing),” Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent Thomas Harris said in a sworn affidavit.
You can read the affidavit below.
The defendant made her first court appearance on Friday.
[Image via Department of Justice]
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