By LUKE BARR, ABC News
(WASHINGTON) — Two men and one woman were charged by the Justice Department for allegedly fabricating a COVID-19 vaccine website.
According to an affidavit unsealed Thursday, Olakitan Oluwalade, Odunayo Baba Oluwalad and Kelly Lamont Williams fraudulently replicated Moderna’s website, purporting to sell the company’s vaccine.
The three were charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, which carries up to 20 years in jail.
The fake Moderna homepage offered an opportunity to buy the vaccine, according to the affidavit.
“YOU MAY BE ABLE TO BUY A COVID-19 VACCINE AHEAD OF TIME,” the website said.
When a person contacted the phone number listed on the phony site’s homepage, he or she would be redirected to an encrypted messaging system, which asked for an email address, the affidavit said.
The suspects wanted to charge $6,000 for 200 doses of the Moderna vaccine at $30 a piece, according to the court documents.
An agent in the Department of Homeland Security’s investigative agency helped uncover the fraud.
“As the public seeks vaccines to protect themselves and their families from COVID-19, fraudsters are waiting to take advantage of their desperation. We want to remind the public to exercise extreme caution online, especially when it comes to COVID-19 vaccines, treatments, and protective equipment,” special agent in charge, James R. Mancuso, of HSI Baltimore said.
Currently, there is no way to purchase the COVID-19 vaccine. Each state has a process in which the public can receive doses of the approved vaccines.
The suspects were caught because the undercover agent was told to allegedly transfer money to an account with Williams’ name on it.
It’s unclear if the suspects have obtained a lawyer.
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