Thousands of fraudulent COVID-19 test kits, treatment pills seized in Buffalo

Posted at 11:11 AM, May 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-13 11:11:54-04

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — A collaboration between federal agencies named "Operation Stolen Promise" aimed at combating fraud and criminal activity related to COVID-19 has led to the seizure of thousands of fraudulent COVID-19 test kits, purported treatment pills and masks in Buffalo.

“The unfortunate reality is there are criminal enterprises actively exploiting Americans while they are at their most vulnerable,” said Homeland Security Investigations Buffalo Special Agent in Charge Kevin Kelly. “But these heartless criminal groups should be forewarned that while some aspects of regular life have been temporarily paused, HSI and CBP are still actively and aggressively pursuing those who operate these illicit schemes.”

The collaboration between Homeland Security Investigations and U.S. Customs and Border Protection named Operation Stolen Promise has led to the seizure of 6,000 fraudulent COVID-19 test kits, 3,400 N95 masks, and thousands of purported treatment pills in Buffalo.

"Criminal organizations that have historically engaged in financial scams are pivoting to exploit the coronavirus pandemic and the associated stimulus package for illegal financial gains. These networks are smuggling and selling counterfeit safety equipment and prohibited testing kits, medicines, and hygiene products, as well as running illicit websites to sell their merchandise," said HSI in a release.

As of May 4, HSI says agents nationwide have opened 315 investigations and worked to seize over $3.2 million dollars in illicit proceeds. 11 arrests have been made and 21 search warrants have been executed. Alongside U.S. Customs and Border Protection 494 shipments of mislabeled, fraudulent, unauthorized or prohibited goods have been seized.