A man from Texas who posted on Facebook that he paid a COVID-19 patient to deliberately spread the virus at a grocery store in San Antonio, Texas, by licking items is now in prison.
The man was sentenced to over a year in federal prison on Oct. 4.
Texas Man Jailed Over COVID-19 Hoax
The man was identified as Christopher Charles Perez, who also goes by the name Robbins. He was found guilty of two counts of making hoaxes by the federal jury, according to NBC News.
According to the Justice Department, his hoaxes are connected to biological weapons.
According to the documents, Perez posted on his Facebook account that his "homeboy's cousin has COVID-19" and that he has "licked everything for the past two days" because they paid him to.
Perez also wrote that they told him not to record anything and post anything only, ending his post with a warning.
The Southwest Texas Fusion Center received a screenshot of Perez's post last year. The center then called the FBI in San Antonio, which led to Perez's arrest, according to IFLS.
The 40-year-old man told the FBI investigators that the post was a hoax and that he did not pay anyone to spread the virus.
He said he wrote it because he thought too many people were still outside grocery shopping and attempted to scare them from the stores to stop them from spreading the virus and keep them safe.
The court document stated that Perez said he did not know anyone who is positive of the coronavirus.
Investigators also confirmed that the post was a hoax. However, U.S Attorney Ashley C. Hoff stated that Perez's attempt to scare people with the threat of spreading the virus is no joking matter, and he needs to be held accountable.
Hoff stated in the statement that the federal court takes threats to harm the community seriously, and they will prosecute anyone who does so to the full extent of the law.
FBI San Antonio Division Special Agent in Charge Christopher Combs stated that those who would threaten to use the virus as a weapon against others would be held accountable for their actions. He said that it applies to hoaxes as well.
Perez's post had spread fear and panic in his community. His sentencing shows that law enforcement is serious about COVID-19 and finds hoaxes about it as a crime.
The FBI thanks the local law enforcement in Texas for their help in this case. Aside from being in prison for 15 months, he is also ordered to pay a $1,000 fine, according to CBS News.
COVID-19 Hoax Online
Since the pandemic began last year, numerous social media platforms have been going the extra mile to stop the spread of misinformation regarding COVID-19.
Platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and Facebook have shut down accounts that spread fear and misinformation about COVID-19.
Earlier this year, Facebook changed the way that it recommended groups and had limited the reach of users that broke its rules. The move was made after the company was criticized for its lack of action against misinformation.
The social media platforms continue to update their policies to ensure that they are clear of any harmful content.
This article is owned by Tech Times
Written by Sophie Webster