Fayette woman pleads guilty to selling unregistered pesticides as COVID-19 treatment

STAFF REPORT :::

A Fayetteville woman has plead guilty in Federal Court to selling unregistered pesticides on eBay as protection against COVID-19.

According to a press release issued by the Office of U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak, Rong Sun, who sold an unregistered pesticide as protection against viruses such as COVID-19, has pleaded guilty to violating the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA).

“We will act quickly and decisively to protect the health of our community,” Pak said. “As Georgia and the country battle a global pandemic, we need safe and effective treatments, not ones that threaten the health of our citizens.”

“Registration under FIFRA helps ensure that pesticides sold in the U.S. work and are safe for humans. The trafficking in snake-oil remedies outside of FIFRA is a criminal act and anyone who does so, especially during this pandemic, will find federal law enforcement ready to stop them,” said Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Bossert Clark for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “The U.S. Department of Justice will not stand by while criminal conduct risks people’s health and safety.”

“This case shows that consumers need to be cautious of products that make unsubstantiated claims of controlling viruses,” said Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Assistant Administrator for Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Susan Bodine.  “EPA and our law enforcement partners continue to work to stop the sale of these illegal products.  Consumers can help protect themselves by visiting epa.gov/coronavirus for a list of approved products.”

“Playing on people’s fears during this pandemic by offering false hope and the empty promise of protection is not only dangerous, it’s also reprehensible and illegal,” said acting Special Agent in Charge Robert Hammer, who oversees Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) operations in Georgia and Alabama. “HSI and its partners are working diligently to investigate and arrest those criminals that are trying to take advantage of Americans during this pandemic.”

“A large part of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service mission is to ensure public trust in the mail,” said Tommy D. Coke, Inspector in Charge of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service Atlanta Division. “When individuals challenge that mission, Postal Inspectors will aggressively investigate those seeking to deceive during this crisis for their own financial gain.”

According to U.S. Attorney Pak, the charges and other information presented in court: The defendant sold an unregistered pesticide, Toamit Virus Shut Out, through eBay, claiming that it would help protect individuals from viruses.  The pesticide was marketed as “Virus Shut Out” and “Stop The Virus.”  The eBay listing depicted the removal of viruses by wearing the “Virus Shut Out” and “Stop The Virus” product.  Additionally, the listing stated that “its main ingredient is ClO2, which is a new generation of widely effective and powerful fungicide recognized internationally at present. Bacteria and viruses can be lifted up within one meter of the wearer’s body, just like a portable air cleaner with its own protective cover.”  It also stated that “In extraordinary times, access to public places and confined spaces will be protected by one more layer and have one more layer of safety protection effect, thus reducing the risks and probability of infection and transmission.”

The listing further claimed that Toamit is “Office and home essentials during viral infections reduce transmission risk by 90%.”

Under FIFRA, the EPA 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.  Sun imported the pesticide from Japan and later sold it to individuals around the United States.

The EPA has taken steps to block the importation and sale of Toamit Virus Shut Out in the United States:  https://www.epa.gov/newsreleases/epa-administrator-wheeler-talks-retailers-and-third-party-marketplace-platforms-discuss and https://www.epa.gov/newsreleases/us-epa-acts-protect-public-unregistered-virus-shut-out-product-imported-honolulu-and.

The charges carry penalties of up to one year in prison and a $100,000 fine.  In determining the actual sentence, the Court will consider the United States Sentencing Guidelines, which are not binding but provide appropriate sentencing ranges for most offenders.

Sentencing for Rong Sun, a/k/a Vicky Sun, 34, of Fayetteville, Georgia, is set for June 29, 2020 at 10:00 a.m., before U.S. Magistrate Judge John K. Larkins III.

This case is being investigated by the Environmental Protection Agency-Criminal Investigation Division, Homeland Security Investigations, and U.S. Postal Inspection Service.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher J. Huber, Deputy Chief Complex Frauds, and Senior Counsel Krishna Dighe of the Environmental Crimes Section of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division are prosecuting the case.

This case is part of Georgia’s Coronavirus (COVID-19) Fraud Task Force, aimed at better protecting the citizens of Georgia from criminal fraud arising from the pandemic. Formed by Georgia’s leading state and federal prosecutors, the task force serves to open channels of communication between partner agencies and more rapidly share information about COVID-19 fraud, while ensuring each fraud complaint is reported to the appropriate prosecuting agency. The task force member agencies include the Office of the Governor of Georgia, the Office of the Attorney General of Georgia, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Georgia and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Georgia. Georgia’s three U.S. Attorneys, the Attorney General of Georgia, and the Executive Counsel for the Governor’s Office serve on the task force. If you think you are a victim of a scam or attempted fraud involving COVID-19, contact the National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866.720.5721 or via email at www.justice.gov/DisasterComplaintForm.

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