In San Antonio, 39-year-old Christopher Charles Perez is charged with allegedly perpetrating a COVID-19-related hoax, announced U.S. Attorney John F. Bash and FBI San Antonio Division Special Agent in Charge Christopher Combs, San Antonio Division.
A federal criminal complaint unsealed today charges Perez with one count of violating 18 U.S.C. § 1038, which criminalizes false information and hoaxes related to weapons of mass destruction. According to the complaint, Perez allegedly posted a threat on Facebook in which he claimed to have paid someone to spread coronavirus at grocery stores in the San Antonio area because he was trying to deter people from visiting the stores, purportedly in order to prevent the spread of the virus. A screenshot of that posted threat was sent by an online tip to the Southwest Texas Fusion Center (SWTFC) on Sunday. The SWTFC contacted the FBI office in San Antonio for further investigation. To be clear, the alleged threat was false; no one spread coronavirus at grocery stores, according to investigators.
Perez, whom FBI agents arrested late yesterday afternoon without incident, faces up to five years in federal prison upon conviction. He remains in federal custody at this time.
The FBI’s Weapons of Mass Destruction Squad and the Joint Terrorism Task Force are investigating this case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Roomberg is prosecuting the case on behalf of the government.
It is important to note that a criminal complaint is merely a charge and should not be considered as evidence of guilt. The defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
If you think that you or your family are the victims of a scam or attempted fraud involving coronavirus, you can report it without leaving your home. Please contact the National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. If it’s a cyber scam, you may also submit your complaint at www.ic3.gov.
Learn more about coronavirus-related frauds, as well as combatting and reporting the hoarding and price gouging of critical supplies, from the Department of Justice: https://www.justice.gov/coronavirus.