Chicago feds target COVID-19 fraud

John Lausch | Dept. of Justice

The top federal prosecutor in Chicago is assigning one of his top assistants to lead a fight against fraud related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the North District of Illinois announced Friday.

U.S. Attorney John Lausch said Assistant U.S. Attorney Tyler Murray will coordinate and lead investigations and prosecutions of people who illegally exploit the crisis.

“My office will vigilantly guard the public from fraudsters who try to take advantage of a vulnerable time for our nation,” Lausch said.  “A national crisis is by no means a safe harbor for criminal activity.”

Murray is the chief of the Chicago office’s financial crimes section. 

Lausch specifically warned about online schemes like the sale of fake COVID-19 test kits or bogus cures.

People should “ignore online offers for vaccinations,” Lausch’s office said. “There currently are no vaccines, pills, potions or other prescription or over-the-counter products available to treat or cure COVID-19.”

Phishing emails that appear to originate from authorities like the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have also been circulating, according to Lausch’s announcement.

Also on the U.S. Attorney’s radar are bogus charities and donation campaigns: “Do your homework when it comes to donations, whether through charities or crowdfunding websites.  Do not let anyone rush you into making a donation.  If someone asks for a donation in cash, gift card, or wire transfer, do not do it,” the office advised.

Fraud related to COVID-19 can be reported to the FBI.

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