Georgia resident arrested for scheme to sell illegal products claiming to protect against COVID-19

News Releases from Headquarters

06/11/2020

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WASHINGTON (June 11, 2020) — Stephen Matthew Shumaker has been charged with mail fraud and knowingly distributing and selling a misbranded pesticidal device.

“The defendant is charged with knowingly selling a fraudulent product during the COVID-19 public health emergency in order to make a profit,” said Environmental Protection Agency Assistant Administrator for Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Susan Bodine. “EPA and our partners in law enforcement remain vigilant to protect consumers from this kind of outrageous behavior.”

To find out how to protect yourself from fraudulent products please see EPA’s compliance advisory, available at https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2020-05/documents/cornavirus-compliance-advisory.pdf

“Shumaker allegedly used the COVID-19 pandemic to sell a product that does not provide the benefits he advertised,” said U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak.  “We are proud to be part of the Georgia COVID-19 Task Force, which continues to identify and prosecute those who attempt to perpetrate Coronavirus-related fraud schemes.”

“The U.S. Postal Inspection Service will remain vigilant in bringing to justice anyone that seeks to defraud individuals during this pandemic,” said Tommy D. Coke, Inspector in Charge of the Atlanta Division. “This scheme highlights the importance of collaborating with our law enforcement partners to investigate and stop those seeking to take advantage of innocent victims.”

 “Selling a misbranded pesticidal device as a protection for COVID-19 gives unsuspecting buyers a false sense of hope and places them in danger,” said acting Special Agent in Charge Robert Hammer, who oversees Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) operations in Georgia and Alabama. “HSI is proud to support the Georgia COVID-19 task force in protecting our citizens from these fraudsters.”

“The Federal Trade Commission appreciates the opportunity to work with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the COVID-19 Task Force on such an important case,” said Anna Burns, the Commission’s Southeast Regional Director. “Interagency cooperation is essential to ensuring U.S. consumers are protected from fraud associated with the coronavirus pandemic.”

According to U.S. Attorney Pak, the charges, and other information presented in court: Shumaker allegedly engaged in a scheme to defraud by soliciting thousands of Georgia residents with false claims that the Beyond Guardian Air™ air purifier kills every major viral and bacterial infection, including the COVID-19 coronavirus disease, in the home. According to the EPA, the device for sale is also a misbranded pesticidal device, another violation of federal law.  

Stephen Matthew Shumaker, 43, of Marietta, Georgia, appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Christopher C. Bly.  Members of the public are reminded that a complaint only contains charges.  The defendant is presumed innocent of the charges and it will be the government’s burden to prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.

The U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations are investigating this case, with valuable assistance from the Federal Trade Commission.

Special Assistant United States Attorney Valerie M. Verduce is prosecuting the case.

For further information please contact the U.S. Attorney’s Public Affairs Office at USAGAN.PressEmails@usdoj.gov or (404) 581-6016.  The Internet address for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia is https://www.justice.gov/usao-ndga

The Environmental Protection Agency-Criminal Investigation Division, Homeland Security Investigations, and U.S. Postal Inspection Service are investigating this case.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher J. Huber, Deputy Chief Complex Frauds, and Senior Counsel Krishna Dighe of the Environmental Crimes Section of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division are prosecuting the case.

The public is urged to report suspected fraud schemes related to COVID-19 (the Coronavirus) by calling the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) hotline (1-866-720-5721) or by e-mailing the NCDF at disaster@leo.gov.

Members of the public can help protect our environment by identifying and reporting environmental violations.  Learn more here:  https://www.epa.gov/enforcement/report-environmental-violation-general-information

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