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A Texas man who posted on Facebook that he paid someone sick with COVID-19 to intentionally spread the virus was just sentenced to 15 months in federal prison.
Christopher Charles Perez, 40, who also goes by Robbins, was found guilty on two counts for violating a federal law that criminalizes false information and hoaxes related to biological weapons after pretending to have someone spread COVID-19 at a San Antonio grocery store, the Justice Department said in a statement.
According to NBC News, Perez posted: “My homeboys cousin has covid19 and has licked every thing for past 2 days cause we paid him too [sic]. Big difference is we told him not to be these f—— idiots who record and post online. . .YOU’VE BEEN WARNED!!!”
An online tip was sent to the Southwest Texas Fusion Center showing a screenshot of Perez’s Facebook post, which he posted in April 2020. The Texas center soon contacted the FBI office in San Antonio to further investigate.
The post turned out to be false, with Perez admitting that he did not pay someone to spread the virus in grocery stores, the statement reads.
“Those who would threaten to use COVID-19 as a weapon against others will be held accountable for their actions, even if the threat was a hoax,” said FBI San Antonio Division Special Agent in Charge Christopher Combs. “Perez’s actions were knowingly designed to spread fear and panic, and today’s sentencing illustrates the seriousness of this crime. The FBI would like to thank our law enforcement partners for their help in this case.”
The fabricated media post came at a time when COVID-19 had just begun and was spreading rapidly in both the U.S. and other countries. By the end of April 2020, when the post was made, there were already over 1 million cases in the U.S.
In addition to the 15-month sentence, Perez was ordered to pay a $1,000 fine.
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