A start and maybe a lesson to consider. The Justice Department late Wednesday filed the first federal criminal charges against a Los Angeles-based actor peddling a fake cure for the coronavirus on social media. Keith Lawrence Middlebrook, 53, was charged with one count of wire fraud, a felony that carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison. Mr. Middlebrook whose credits include small parts in Iron Man 3, Thor and Moneyball, according to the Internet Movie Database, allegedly claimed to have personally developed a “patent pending” cure for the coronavirus.
In videos posted to his 2.5 million Instagram followers, Mr. Middlebrook pitched small white pills and an unknown liquid that he claimed would offer immunity and a cure for the deadly virus, prosecutors said. There is currently no cure or preventive vaccine for the coronavirus, according to the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Not only did I make the cure, but this pill right here is the prevention,” Mr. Middlebrook said in one Instagram video that was viewed over 1 million times. “Meaning, if I walk into the Staples Center and everyone’s testing coronavirus positive, I can’t contract it. It’s impossible. … I have what makes you immune to the coronavirus.” Mr. Middlebrook was arrested during a meeting at which he delivered pills to an undercover agent posing as an investor. At the time of his arrest, he had been seeking financing for his allegedly fraudulent cure.