The Department of Justice reported that a United States federal court entered a permanent injunction to halt an alleged health center and its principal from selling a purported “ozone therapy” that was supposedly “95% effective in treating COVID-19” in Dallas, Texas. Purity Health and Wellness Centers, and Jean Juanita Allen—one of its owners—apparently had been fraudulently promoting a so-called ozone therapy as a treatment for COVID-19. The defendants agreed to be bound by permanent injunction barring them from marketing such a fraudulent scheme—preying off people’s fears surrounding COVID-19. That the great majority continue to respond to this terrible pandemic in altruistic ways is apparent—those few bad apples seeking to exploit the situation for illicit gain face a formidable federal dragnet.
Can it Get this Low?
As reported by ABC News, this injunction is the result of the Justice Department’s action to crack down on a growing number of scammers promoting fraudulent COVID-19 treatments. In this case, criminals’ prey on those experiencing fear and anxiety by peddling illicit treatments, such as “ozone therapies,” where the treatment actually increases the amount of oxygen in the bloodstream as a way to prevent contracting COVID-19.
Unfortunately, con artists seek to strike while the iron is hot, marketing inappropriate and even dangerous treatments as ones that could help combat COVID-19. The number of treatments, cures, and even “investment opportunities” in bogus shell companies working on treatments and cures is limited only by the cunning, shrewdness, and iniquitous nature of the hucksters behind these endeavors.
With over nearly a million cases of the disease and over 55,000 dead in just a matter of several weeks, how could anyone seek to exploit such a tragic situation? From selling fake COVID-19 treatments and bogus tests to peddling shoddy “protective” gear to even hawking exorbitantly priced toilet paper that never shows up at the consumer’s doorstep—the bottom never seems to surface. There are even groups that offer to “help” people secure their federal stimulus checks—for this fine service, one only needs to supply their bank account and social security number and, of course, pay the service fee upfront.
Law Enforcement Moves in
Federal agencies are responding in force to the growing numbers of reports to various non-profit and federal agencies. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), along with Department of Justice and others, now will “circle the wagon” on these individuals. In fact, Attorney General William Barr recently took decisive action directing all 94 U.S. attorneys to aggressively track, stop, and charge those miscreant exploiting the pandemic for profit.
And just last week, the Department of Jusrtice reported federal efforts “had disrupted hundreds of online scams tied to the pandemic.” Last week culminated with the Dallas “ozone treatment” peddler case: FBI Dallas Special Agent in Charge Matthew J. DeSarno described what is in store for those preying on others in this pandemic environment: “The FBI and our partners are working together every day to prevent, detect and dismantle COVID-19 fraud.” As federal and state government agencies seek to ensure citizens are protected, Officer DeSarno emphasized, “We will not allow anyone to illegally profit by exploiting the fear and anxiety related to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
A number of organizations and agencies exist to help consumers with complaints, such as Better Business Bureau, which started a COVID-19 category on its scam tracker.