An eBay seller was arrested on federal charges for allegedly selling a product – Toamit Virus Shut Out – that claimed it would help protect individuals from viruses.
The arrest serves as a warning that the federal government is fighting fraud related to COVID-19.
According to the Department of Justice, the eBay listing depicted the removal of viruses by wearing the “Virus Shut Out” and “Stop The Virus” product and claimed that Toamit is “office and home essential during viral infections reduce transmission risk by 90%.”
The feds made their case citing the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act, which regulates the production, sale, distribution and use of pesticides in the United States. “A pesticide is any substance intended for preventing, destroying, repelling, or mitigating any pest. The term “pest” includes viruses.”
“Pesticides are required to be registered with the EPA. Toamit Virus Shut Out was not registered and it is illegal to distribute or sell unregistered pesticides,” the DOJ went on to say.
US Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak of the Northern District of Georgia said the seller allegedly imported the pesticide from Japan, violating the anti-smuggling law, and then sent it via US Postal Service Priority Mail.
“The defendant took advantage of the current worldwide crisis to sell an illegal product with the claim that it protects individuals from viruses,” Pak said. “We will take quick action through the Georgia COVID-19 Task Force to put a stop to criminals preying on the public with Coronavirus-related fraud schemes.”
The announcement noted that the defendant is presumed innocent of the charges and that it’s the government’s burden to prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.
The Environmental Protection Agency’s Susan Bodine was also quoted in the announcement. She said reliance on fraudulent products could increase the spread of COVID-19 and exacerbate the current public health emergency, and she asked American consumers to check the list of approved products found at epa.gov/coronavirus before making any purchases.
The DOJ published a landing page devoted to the coronavirus where it advertises a hotline for reporting COVID-19 related fraud, hoarding, and price-gouging.
Interestingly, a search of eBay for “TOAMIT” the same day as the DOJ announcement of the arrest showed live listings for Toamit Stop the Virus products.