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A Texas man was sentenced to 15 months in prison for falsely claiming that he paid someone with COVID-19 to lick items inside of grocery stores last year.
Christopher Charles Perez, 40, was charged with two counts of false information and hoaxes related to biological weapons after he posted two messages on Facebook in April of 2020 in an attempt to scare people away from shopping in stores in the San Antonio area.
“My homeboys cousin has covid19 and has licked everything for past two days cause we paid him too,” the message read, the New York Times reports. “YOU’VE BEEN WARNED.”
The FBI launched an investigation after receiving a screenshot of Perez’s post from the Southwest Texas Fusion Center, which was passed along through an online tip.
The agency was able to determine that the post was a fake, and Perez confirmed to authorities that he was lying. In addition to prison time, he will be required to pay a $1,000 fine.
“Those who would threaten to use COVID-19 as a weapon against others will be held accountable for their actions, even if the threat was a hoax,” Christopher Combs, FBI San Antonio Division Special Agent in Charge, said. “Perez’s actions were knowingly designed to spread fear and panic and today’s sentencing illustrates the seriousness of this crime.”
In August, a London man was taken into custody after he allegedly visited three separate supermarkets and “injected foodstuffs with a number of needles.” While authorities believe the suspect only tampered with processed meat and microwaveable products, customers were advised to throw out any items bought on the day he was inside the stores.
It was unclear at the time what exactly was inside the syringes he used.