There’s always people waiting to cash in on the misery of others.
On Wednesday, FBI agents arrested a small-time Keith Lawrence Middlebrook, 53, an actor who allegedly claimed he had invented a pill that would cure COVID-19 (coronavirus). I can’t believe he thought this would fly. I guess Keith assumed with the current opioid craze, American soccer moms would go for any cure in pill form.
Investigators said he also falsely claimed to be able to clear up the COVID 19 pandemic by April 12. Middlebrook was charged with one count of attempted wire fraud, which is a felony offense that has a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison, according to the FBI.
Middlebrook — who actually has a large social media following, including 2.5 million followers on Instagram — was seeking investors for his fraudulent endeavor and claimed Earvin “Magic” Johnson was a member of his company’s board of directors. The Lakers’ icon told authorities he does not know Middlebrook.
“I have Developed the Cure for the CoronaVirus COVID-19…*LA Patient tested Positive for CoronaVirus got up and walked out 51 hours after my Injection,” Middlebrook allegedly said via text to one would-be investor who worked with the FBI on its investigation. In the same text message, cited by federal authorities, Middlebrook allegedly wrote, “Investors who come in at ground level say $1M will parachute with $200M – $300M…Conservative Minimum.”
Middlebrook was arrested during a meeting at which he delivered some sort of pills — purportedly the coronavirus treatment — to an undercover agent who was posing as an investor, the FBI 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 in a statement. “While this may be the first federal criminal case in the nation stemming from the pandemic, it certainly will not be the last. I again am urging everyone to be extremely wary of outlandish medical claims and false promises of immense profits. And to those who perpetrate these schemes, know that federal authorities are out in force to protect all Americans, and we will move aggressively against anyone seeking to cheat the public during this critical time.” [Hollywood Reporter]
That guy just looks like someone who’d be peddling fake Coronavirus cures. But how does a middle-aged failed actor rack up 2.4 million IG followers? Are they all fake accounts he created?
Paul Delacourt, the Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office, said in a statement Wednesday, “There’s a particular opportunistic cruelty in seeking to profit based on the fear and helplessness of others. As the country reacts to the current crisis, and while many suffer from losing a loved one or losing their livelihood, the last thing Americans need are con-artists who hawk miracle cures they know are not tested, guaranteed, nor approved.”
If he’s that confident that his cure works, then perhaps he should be held in a cell with known carriers of the virus.
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