The FBI on Tuesday arrested a Southern California man for luring investors into a company that falsely claimed to have developed a cure for COVID-19.
Keith Lawrence Middlebrook, 53, was arrested after the United States District Court in Los Angeles, filed a criminal complaint against him for allegedly claiming to have personally developed a “patent-pending cure” and a treatment to prevent COVID-19, which he planned to produce in a mass scale.
Middlebrook was arrested during an undercover operation in which an agent posed himself as an investor.
According to the affidavit, Middlebrook told the agent that a $3 million investment would cash in a $30 million profit, a promise that was allegedly backed by a “current $10 billion offer from an unnamed buyer in Dubai.”
After receiving money from investors, he would issue shares in the current company as well as shares in his second corporation called Quantum Cure CV 2020, Middlebrook told the agent.
He even claimed that former Los Angeles basketball star Earvin “Magic” Johnson was one of the board of directors in his company. Johnson’s office later told the agents that he had nothing to do with Middlebrook or his company.
A week ago Middlebrook posted a video on his Instagram account, showing a syringe filled with a clear liquid, describing how it worked and claiming that he’d created the cure for the coronavirus.
“This is the cure right here, going into mass production. This is going to save and change the world. Yes, I have a meeting set up with President Donald Trump” he said, displaying a syringe.
In another Instagram video that crossed over a million views in three days, Middlebrook was seen showing a pill that he said prevented him from contracting COVID-19. “If I walk in the Staples Center and everyone is testing coronavirus-positive, OK, I can’t contract it,” he told his 2.5 million followers on Instagram.
Paul Delacourt, assistant director FBI’s Los Angeles office, said in a statement “There’s a particular opportunistic cruelty in seeking to profit based on the fear and helplessness of others.”
Nicola Hanna, the U.S. attorney in Los Angeles, said 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.”
Middlebrook is charged with attempted wire fraud carrying a penalty of up to 20 years in federal prison.