Pandemic fraud bill lands on Governor’s desk
Stock image via Adobe.

vaccine fraud
The bill passed both Chambers unanimously.

Gov. Ron DeSantis received a bill Thursday to protect consumers against fraud and scams during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sponsored by Republican Rep. Ardian Zika of Pasco County, the bill (HB 9) was the first measure to pass in the House during the 2021 Legislative Session and cleared both chambers with unanimous votes.

“This is an important piece of legislation that protects our consumers against fraud during a pandemic,” Zika told House members.

The proposal establishes criminal penalties and authorizes civil remedies from fraud as consumers seek vaccines or send personal protective equipment (PPE) during a pandemic.

It also stiffens penalties against fake websites and fraudulent COVID-19 ploys. In many instances, swindlers offer vaccine access in exchange for money.

Further, the bill would prohibit disseminating false or misleading vaccine or PPE information with the intent to defraud.

Federal, state and local officials have warned Florida consumers to be wary of offers advertising special access to the COVID-19 vaccine or personal protective equipment in exchange for money or other valid valuable consideration.

Shortly after officials first identified the COVID-19 virus in Florida, Attorney General Ashley Moody began warning of coronavirus scams in the Sunshine State over a year ago. Scammers try to exploit people’s fears about the pandemic to rip them off.

As of April, the South Florida U.S. Attorney’s Office filed 38 COVID-19 financial fraud cases, with dollar amounts approaching $75 million.

Nationally, more than 19,000 new websites selling PPE emerged as the COVID-19 pandemic took root in the U.S., resulting in numerous reports of sites taking orders, accepting payment, and failing to deliver products, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

While some of the pandemic scams can be prosecuted under current state law, stopping other fraudulent activity has been difficult. As proponents explained, state laws aren’t equipped to handle vaccine-related frauds.

The bill aims to solve those problems by new crimes.

Jason Delgado

Jason Delgado covers news out of the state capital for Florida Politics. After a stint with the U.S. Army, Jason attended the University of Central Florida where he studied American Policy and National Security. His past bylines include WMFE-NPR and POLITICO Florida. Throw him a line at [email protected] or on Twitter at @byJasonDelgado.



#FlaPol

Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Jason Delgado, Renzo Downey, Rick Flagg, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Joe Henderson, Janelle Irwin, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Jesse Scheckner, Scott Powers, Andrew Wilson, and Kelly Hayes.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @PeterSchorschFL
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704