“Purposeful exposure and infection of others with COVID-19″ could be considered an act of terrorism. This per a memo released by Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen from the Department of Justice (DOJ) yesterday. What this means for people who intentionally expose others to the virus is the potential of criminal charges under federal terrorism laws. The DOJ’s website is also making the public aware of other fraudulent activity taking place as a result of the global pandemic.
In Rosen’s memo, COVID-19 is said to meet the definition of a “biological agent.” The memo continues, “Threats or attempts to use COVID-19 as a weapon against Americans will not be tolerated.”
Not a Hollow Threat
New Jersey State Attorney General Gurbir Grewal has filed criminal charges, including third-degree terroristic threatening, against George Falcone. The State of New Jersey Office of the Attorney General website states:
“George Falcone, 50, of Freehold, NJ, was charged today by complaint-summons with the following criminal offenses:
- Terroristic Threats (3rd Degree)
- Obstructing Administration of Law or Other Governmental Function (4th degree)
- Harassment (Petty Disorderly Persons Offense)
The incident occurred at about 6:30 p.m. on Sunday, March 22, at the Wegmans on US Highway 9. The employee was concerned that Falcone was standing too close to her and an open display of prepared foods, so she requested that he step back as she covered the food. Instead, Falcone allegedly stepped forward to within 3 feet of her, leaned toward her, and purposely coughed. He allegedly laughed and said he was infected with the coronavirus. Falcone subsequently told two other employees they are lucky to have jobs.”
If convicted of all terrorism charges alone, Falcone faces up to five years in prison.
The Department of Justice is also taking a strong stance against various fraud attempts being made during the global pandemic. These include:
- Individuals and businesses selling fake cures for COVID-19 online and engaging in other forms of fraud.
- Phishing emails from entities posing as the World Health Organization or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- Malicious websites and apps that appear to share virus-related information to gain and lock access to your devices until payment is received.
- Seeking donations fraudulently for illegitimate or non-existent charitable organizations.
The DOJ’s website addresses the above issues with this warning: “Criminals will likely continue to use new methods to exploit COVID-19 worldwide.”
Attorney General William Barr stated on the DOJ Facebook page, “As we face the nationwide spread of #COVID19, I want to emphasize that the critical mission of the DOJ must and will continue… The pandemic is dangerous enough without wrongdoers seeking to profit from public panic and this sort of conduct cannot be tolerated.”
Encouraging the public to come forth should they be aware of any criminal and/or fraudulent activity during our global emergency, the DOJ set forth this edict and contact information:
“More broadly, the Department of Justice is addressing actions by individuals and businesses to take advantage of COVID-19 through other fraudulent and illegal schemes. Anyone with information or concerns about this sort of conduct, or other COVID-19-related complaints, should contact the National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline (1-866-720-5721) or e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org).”