Queens men busted selling fraudulent COVID-19 ‘shut out cards’
A pair of Queens men were arrested Tuesday for hawking snake-oil wards against the coronavirus that actually contain potentially hazardous pesticide, Brooklyn prosecutors announced.
Po Shan Wong, the general manager of JCD Distribution Inc., and Zhen Wu, the company’s sales manager, allegedly marketed the blue, credit-card-sized “Virus Shut Out Cards” as “air sanitizers” that killed the novel coronavirus and could be carried in place of a mask, authorities said.
The company’s Facebook page allegedly showed images of the blue card being worn as a lanyard around a woman’s neck, attached to a girl’s baby stroller and a boy’s backpack, and dangling from the pocket of a medical doctor’s white coat, the complaint states.
“The brazenly false claims allegedly promoted by the defendants about their product potentially endangered the public not only by claiming to protect against the COVID-19 virus, but also by exposing users to the health hazard posed by a misbranded pesticide,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Seth DuCharme in a statement.
They allegedly sold the cards in minimum quantities of 50, charging $9.50 each, over the phone and online from April to July of 2020, the complaint states.
JCD allegedly claimed on their Facebook page in Mandarin that the cards were “portable space disinfection and sterilization” devices that emit chlorine dioxide, which they touted as having a “sterilization rate at 99%.”
The Facebook page allegedly stated that the blue cards are imported from Japan and are so effective, they “replace masks,” according to the complaint. The products are no longer displayed on the company’s website or Facebook page.
Chlorine dioxide — a gas at room temperature — is actually a bleaching agent and a pesticide, officials said.
The Environmental Protection Agency’s National Enforcement Investigations Center tested random samples of the “Virus Shut Out Cards” and found that they contained sodium chlorite, which converts to chlorine dioxide when exposed to air, the complaint alleges.
Air with high concentrations of chlorine dioxide, which has not been shown to treat or prevent COVID-19, can trigger shortness of breath, nose and throat irritation and chronic bronchitis, according to court papers.
“Accidental ingestion of chlorine dioxide or chlorite by a child may cause subsequent damage to red blood cells and may make breathing difficult, and result in tissue or organ damage,” the complaint states.
A search warrant was executed on the College Point business July 29, and agents seized 104 large boxes — containing between 150 and 200 retail-sized boxes of “Virus Shut Out Cards — which were imported from Hong Kong.
The defendants are charged with conspiring to distribute and sell one or more pesticides that are not registered with the EPA and that are adulterated or misbranded.
They surrendered Tuesday morning, and their initial appearances in Brooklyn federal court are pending.
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