The U.S. Justice Department says federal agents have arrested a California man for soliciting investors to pay up to $1 million for a stake in a company marketing what he claimed was a cure for the COVID-19 virus.
The Justice Department said in a press release FBI agents arrested 53-year-old Keith Lawrence Middlebrook in Los Angeles Wednesday after he met with an undercover agent and presented the agent with pills Middlebrook claimed would prevent a coronavirus infection.
The government alleges that in video ads that he ran on YouTube and the Instagram social network, Middlebrook claimed he had developed the pills, as well as a serum that would cure coronavirus in people who had already contracted it. At least one of the videos received more than a million views.
An FBI criminal complaint filed in federal court says Middlebrook fraudulently solicited funds with promises of massive profits for a company he called Quantum Prevention CV, Inc., or QP20. He claimed former basketball star Earvin "Magic" Johnson was already an investor. When contacted by investigators, Johnson said he never heard of the company.
Middlebrook is scheduled to appear in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles later this week, where he is expected to be arraigned on fraud charges. If convicted, he could face a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.