US Customs intercept fake coronavirus test kits at LAX

Saturday, it was announced that on March 12, U.S. customs agents intercepted a package at the International Mail Facility at LAX (Los Angeles International Airport) that contained counterfeit COVID-19 test kits.

Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) warned consumers that “authorized diagnostic testing for COVID-19 is conducted in verified state and local public health laboratories across the United States. The American public should be aware of bogus home testing kits for sale either online or in informal direct to consumer settings.”

Inspectors who were examining a package that came from the U.K. found six plastic bags containing vials filled with a white liquid and labeled “Corona Virus 2019nconv (COVID-19)” and “Virus1 Test Kit” inside.

The outside of the mailed package was labeled “Purified Water Vials,” according to the CBP news release.

The shipment was turned over to the FDA for analysis.

“Protecting the health and safety of the American people is a top priority for CBP,” said Carlos C. Martel, CBP Director of Field Operations in Los Angeles. “This significant interception, at a time when the U.S. is in the midst of a National Emergency, demonstrates our CBP officers’ vigilance and commitment to ensure dangerous goods are intercepted and not a threat to our communities and our people.”

“CBP commits substantial resources to detect, intercept and seize illicit goods arriving in the air package environment,” said LaFonda Sutton-Burke, CBP Port Director at LAX.  “Smugglers are constantly attempting to take advantage of consumers by disguising their illicit goods as legitimate shipments.”

Further details, including any arrest connected to the intercepted package, were not released.

Scammers emerging

Reports have been emerging of scammers taking advantage of people’s fears and anxiety over the coronavirus pandemic. As one example of the government’s response, on Friday, Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer and county District Attorney Jackie Lacey held a press conference to caution residents of illegal price hikes and advertisements for fake cures.

In a news release, they announced a joint task force aimed at stopping “illegal and dangerous practices” involving “misinformation, price gouging and scams connected to the coronavirus pandemic.”

“We’re fighting to protect an anxious and uncertain public from price-gouging, online scams and misinformation,” Feuer wrote. “My Office is investigating traditional stores and online retailers, uncovering unsubstantiated advertising claims about alleged coronavirus prevention, treatment, and cures, and investigating safety products—such as protective masks—that may not perform as advertised, as well as products being sold at astronomical prices. And we’re taking action. If you’re a victim, please contact our Office.”

“As prosecutors, we see first-hand how consumer fraud can infringe on our sense of security, shatter our trust and endanger our well-being,” Lacey said. “The consequences of today’s scams are more than just financial. These frauds may affect our health and the health of those around us. Unfortunately, every one of us is at risk of being duped by one of these scams.”

Feuer’s office claimed a quick success in their initial efforts by forcing the removal of internet ads by a locally based California company, CEN Group LLC.

The city attorney’s office said that CEN engaged in false advertising “via its website,, which markets and sells vitamin supplements and claimed, among other alleged false claims, that vitamin C is a ‘safe and proven treatment’ that ‘can protect against coronavirus,’ that ‘[p]eople are dying needlessly of coronavirus,’ that ‘high doses of vitamins, especially Vitamin C, can be used to address the coronavirus outbreak’, and that ‘the coronavirus can be dramatically slowed or stopped completely with the immediate widespread use of high doses of vitamin C.’

The FDA and FTC have stated that there are presently no vaccines or drugs that are approved to treat COVID-19.

The National Institute of Health has also warned “that ‘alternative’ treatments—such as high doses of vitamins A, C and D also do nothing to protect from the virus and are ineffective against Covid-19—and can in fact be harmful.”

The New York Times reported last week that the FDA is clamping down on false ad claims with regard to the coronavirus. The paper quoted Dr. Robert Glatter, an ER physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan …

“The bottom line is that there are so many false claims,” he said. “And they seem to proliferate as fast as the illness.”

The National Institutes of Health has also cautioned that “alternative” treatments are ineffective against Covid-19.

High doses of vitamins A, C and D also do nothing to protect from the virus, Dr. Glatter said.

“Vitamin A and D in high quantities can be toxic to the kidney and liver,” he said. Vitamin C is not recommended in large doses, as it could affect hydration. Diet modification does not work either, he added.


Watch KTLA’s news report on the bogus-test-kit seizure …

Video by KTLA


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