The UK’s Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) has taken action against a manufacturer of fake COVID-19 treatment kits.
The case originated when the US Customs and Border Protection Agency in Los Angeles intercepted a package containing 60 separate COVID-19 treatment kits labelled as ‘Anti-Pathogenic treatment’, which were sent from the UK.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) determined the product to be an unapproved drug based on the labelling and directions for use, and alerted the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency in the UK.
Hours after the case was passed to PIPCU, Frank Ludlow was arrested on 20 March 2020 in a post office near his home. He had been charged with fraud by false representation, possession of articles for use in fraud and unlawfully manufacturing a medicinal product, and remanded in custody until 20 April 2020.
More than 300 treatment kits and around 20 litres of chemicals used in the production of the fake kits were recovered by police from his home.
There are currently still no vaccines or drugs for the COVID-19 virus, and the FDA has repeatedly warned the public about purchasing any product that claims to be able to treat or prevent COVID-19.
The kits which had been labelled as ‘Anti-Pathogenic treatment,’ are thought to contain potassium thiocyanate and hydrogen peroxide, both of which are dangerous chemicals especially when used to wash and rinse one’s mouth.
“Fraudsters are currently looking for ways in which they can exploit people, including using global emergencies, and times of uncertainty for many, to defraud people out of their money,” said Detective Chief Superintendent Clinton Blackburn, from the City of London Police.
He added that: “When buying online, beware of illegitimate websites, suspicious URLs and remember that claims like ‘100% safe, no side effects’ or ‘quick results’ are often warning signs. Cut prices and speedy deliveries can expose you to fake medicines, identity theft and fraud.”
PIPCU is a department of the City of London Police which was established in 2013, with funding from the UK’s Intellectual Property Office. Its role is to investigate and deter serious and organised intellectual property crime in the UK, with a particular focus on infringers with an online presence. Throughout its history it has undertaken actions against a variety of criminal operations – including a raft of illegal video and music download websites, and digital currency sellers.
It also maintains the IP Crime Directory, a database for customs and police officers to help them identify counterfeit goods with the information uploaded by rights and brand holders.
Reports can be made to PIPCU by calling the Action Fraud helpline (0300 123 2040), using the online reporting form here, or through existing contacts at the department.