A pharmacist and a surveyor have been arrested following an extensive investigation by the National Crime Agency (NCA) investigators. The duo were arrested on suspicion of illegally selling coronavirus/COVID-19 testing kits
The NCA has been proactive in trying to stop the criminal fraternity from taking advantage of the national emergency that has now claimed over 12,000 lives in the UK alone.
As part of its proactive work, NCA officials have also taken down a website that was trying to fool victims into buying Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) that did not exist.
The website sent thousands of ‘phishing’ emails to try and dupe people into spending hundreds of pounds of PPE that would never arrive.
On Saturday 11th April, NCA officers arrested a 46-year-old pharmacist from Croydon, south London and seized over £20,000 in cash from the male.
He was arrested under the Fraud Act 2006 after making ‘false and misleading claims about the tests’ capability. The male has since been released on bail pending further enquiries.
In a sperate investigation, NCA officers stopped a 39-year-old surveyor while he was driving his car in Uxbridge, west London.
Officers searched his vehicle and found 250 COVID-19 testing kits. He was also arrested under the 2006 Fraud Act after making false and misleading claims about the capability of the kits.
The male told NCA investigators that he was planning on selling the fake kits to construction workers. He too has been released on bail pending further enquiries.
Image credit: National Crime Agency
Nikki Holland, NCA Director of Investigations, said:
“Criminals capitalise on fear and anxiety, and they will exploit any opportunity, no matter how awful, to line their pockets.
“Illegally selling testing kits completely undermines the nation’s collective response to the pandemic and actually endangers lives.
“Anyone thinking of trying to profit in this way should take note of these arrests and that bringing these offenders to justice and ceasing their activities is a key priority across law enforcement.”
Graeme Biggar, Director General of the National Economic Crime Centre, said:
“COVID-19 is increasingly being used as a hook to commit fraud – and we think these offences are likely to increase during the pandemic.
“Individuals and businesses need to be fully prepared for criminals trying to turn the pandemic to their advantage by scamming them out of money.
“Law enforcement, government and the private sector are working together to protect the public and combat these offenders.
“If you think you’ve fallen for a scam, contact your bank immediately and report it to Action Fraud or CrimeStoppers. If you are in Scotland report it to Police Scotland directly by calling 101.”
Tariq Sarwar, Head of Operations for Enforcement at the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), said:
“We are committed to working together with law enforcement to protect public health and prevent unsafe medicines and medical devices getting to the public.
“The use of products for the diagnosis of coronavirus infection in community settings, such as pharmacies, for home use, is not at present advised by Public Health England.
“There are no CE marked tests for home use, and it is illegal to supply such products.
“The safety, performance or quality of the products cannot be guaranteed, and this poses a health risk.
“We continue to encourage the public, and healthcare professionals, that if you spot any posts claiming to sell these types of products, these can be reported to us via our Yellow Card Scheme:
“Always make sure you are buying your medicines from a registered pharmacy or website and your medical devices from reputable retailers.”
Fraudsters have been actively targetting people via email & text message scams which are used to offer fake medical support to vulnerable victims.
Morally corrupt fraudsters have also been attempting to lure victims with offers that look too good to be true; such as high return investments, ‘healthcare opportunities’ or appeals to support bogus charities.
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