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Coronavirus in Florida

Ashley Moody, federal attorneys tackle coronavirus scams

U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr ordered federal attorneys to respond to scams.

Attorney General Ashley Moody and the state’s top prosecutors are working to stop coronavirus scams in the state.

Moody, Florida’s three U.S. attorneys and state-level attorneys are committed to stopping scammers who want to take advantage of the pandemic for personal profit, according to a press release sent Thursday.

The phishing scams purport to be official government health websites including the World Health Organization or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Others offer fake COVID-19 cures.

“We will not allow anyone to take advantage of Floridians trying to protect their health and the safety of their families during this global crisis,” Moody said. “We are united with Florida’s U.S. Attorneys in our commitment to pursue scammers exploiting this pandemic to rip-off our citizens, and we will continue to work diligently to ensure anyone targeting Floridians during this state of emergency is brought to justice.”

That effort comes on the heels of U.S. Attorney General William Barr‘s call for all federal attorneys to prioritize stopping scam artists during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Larry Keefe, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Florida, said his office will remain vigilant and aggressive to prevent scams and prosecute perpetrators.

“The real threat of this pandemic is bad enough on its own — but we are going to have zero tolerance for the added risk created by lowlife scammers who would prey on Floridians at a time when their focus needs to be on protecting their own health and well-being,” Keefe said.

Southern District of Florida U.S. Attorney Ariana Fajardo Orshan, whose district is home to a significant portion of the state’s elder population, said the risk of scams is particularly high in her district. More than half of confirmed coronavirus cases in the state are located in her district.

“As communities across our nation come together to confront the COVID-19 pandemic, know that my office will not waver in its commitment to protecting South Floridians, including our vulnerable seniors,” she said.

And Maria Chapa Lopez, U.S. Attorney for the state’s middle district, said law enforcement will use every resource available to stop scammers.

“It’s shameful the way some crooks feel no guilt about targeting our most vulnerable, trusting individuals,” she added.

This week, Moody issued a Consumer Alert urging the public to beware of potential coronavirus scams when researching information about COVID-19. She also activated the state’s Price Gouging Hotline for consumers to report allegations of illegal price increases related to the outbreak.

Written By

Renzo Downey covers the Florida Legislature for Florida Politics. After graduating from Northwestern University in 2019, Renzo began his reporting career in the Lone Star State, covering state government for the Austin American-Statesman. Shoot Renzo an email at renzo@floridapolitics.com and follow him on Twitter @RenzoDowney.

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