A California conman, who allegedly claimed he created a cure for COVID-19 and tried to drum up investors in his bogus company by saying that NBA great Magic Johnson was on board, has been busted in the first federal coronavirus-related criminal case in the nation, according to federal investigators.
Keith Lawrence Middlebrook, 53, was arrested by the FBI Wednesday night on a felony charge of attempted wire fraud in connection to the elaborate scam, officials said.
The feds say that Middlebrook fraudulently solicited investments in Quantum Prevention CV Inc. or QP20 – a phony company he claimed would be used to peddle pills that would prevent coronavirus infections and an injectable cure for those already diagnosed with the potentially deadly virus.
Middlebrook claimed he personally developed a “patent-pending cure” and treatment for the virus, even though health officials have said there is no known vaccine or treatment for the illness, prosecutors said.
Officials say the Southern California man was nabbed during a meeting in which he delivered the purported pills to an undercover agent, who was posing as an investor.
Middlebrook tried to get people to invest in the company with promises of massive profits and claimed to at least one potential investor that Johnson was a member of the company’s board of directors, according to the feds. The basketball legend confirmed to investigators that he knew nothing about Middlebrook’s company.
The con-artist guaranteed the undercover agent that a $300,000 investment would yield $30 million – a promise that was secured “by a current $10 billion offer from an unnamed buyer in Dubai,” according to an affidavit.
QP20, Middlebrook claimed, would mass produce the pills, and after getting investor funds, Middlebrook would issue shares in both QP20 and Quantum Cure CV 2020 – another phony corporation – that Middlebrook claimed would market the serum that could cure COVID-19 patients within two or three days, a criminal complaint alleges.
“I have Developed the Cure for the CoronaVirus COVID-19,” Middlebrook said in texts with a witness cooperating with the feds, according to an affidavit. “LA Patient tested Positive for CoronaVirus got up and walked out 51 hours after my Injection.”
In another text Middlebrook wrote, “Investors who come in at ground level say $1M will parachute with $200M – $300M…Conservative Minimum,” prosecutors said.
The feds say that Middlebrook also marketed the phony cure on his Instagram account and posted a video more than a week ago showing off a syringe with a clear liquid.
“Yes I have Developed the Cure for the CoronaVirus COVID-19. After 6 Weeks of Intense Focus and Development (and very little sleep). I am currently going into Mass Production,” a caption on the video read.
“The CDC, WHO and Mainstream Media have created a Pandemonium environment. To answer this (just because it’s what I do) I have created a CoronaVirus Prevention Pill,” the caption continued. “(After 3 Days of taking it the person is Immune to the Virus and STAYS immune as long as they continue taking it once a day it the morning) and also the COVID-19 Formula Vaccine Cure to Satisfy the Physiological and Phycological Need at large.”
As of Tuesday, investigators say the video had been viewed more than 633,000 times.
In another Instagram video viewed more than 1 million times over the course of three days, Middlebrook showed a pill that he claimed prevents him from contracting the illness.
Middlebrook stated in the clip “that if he took the pill and walked into the Staples Center filled with COVID-19 positive individuals, he could not contract the virus,” according to the criminal complaint.
Federal officials warned against scams like Middlebrook’s amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“During these difficult days, scams like this are using blatant lies to prey upon our fears and weaknesses,” Los Angeles US Attorney Nick Hanna said. “While this may be the first federal criminal case in the nation stemming from the pandemic, it certainly will not be the last.”
Hanna added, “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.”
Middlebrook faces a maximum of up to 20 years in federal prison.
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