Instagram, YouTube 'iron man' marketer first to be nabbed by Feds cracking down on fake coronavirus web cures

Videos claiming to have magic savior pills racked up millions of views amid allegedly fraudulent investment scheme


A social-media marketer is understood to be the first person to be hit with a federal fraud charge in the US for allegedly trying to trick people into investing in a bogus COVID-19 cure.

Keith Middlebrook, 53, of southern California, was this week accused [PDF] of committing attempted fraud by wire, radio, and television.

According to prosecutors, Middlebrook used his Instagram and YouTube accounts to post, since deleted, videos hawking phony cures for COVID-19, claiming to have developed both an injectable serum and a pill that would render people immune to the coronavirus disease. It is believed the videos racked up some two million views.

His Instagram account still lists him as "Inventor: COVID19 Immunity & Coronavirus Cure," we note.

Middlebrook, who presents himself online as something of a fitness and life coach as well as an entrepreneur with the title "the real iron man," is also accused of trying to drum up investments for his made-up medical venture by not only claiming to have a cure, and touting wild returns on investment, but also to have secured the backing of Los Angeles sports and entertainment icon Earvin "Magic" Johnson.

virus

Drones, apps and packed lunches: The latest on big tech's COVID-19 response

READ MORE

"For an initial investment of $300,000, Middlebrook guaranteed a return of $30 million, which he said, was secured by a current $10bn offer from an unnamed buyer in Dubai," the complaint against him, filed in a central Cali federal district court, claimed. "For example, Middlebrook stated for someone who put 'in $1m would be looking at a $100m' return."

The scheme came to a halt when Middlebrook – of various addresses in Westwood, Newport Beach, and Murrieta – tried to deliver a package of his supposed coronavirus prevention pills to an undercover Fed posing as an investor. If convicted on the fraud charge, he faces a maximum of 20 years in the slammer.

The arrest and charge is, to the best of our knowledge, the first in a push by federal prosecutors to crack down on coronavirus scams, particularly those being spread over the web and via social media platforms.

"During these difficult days, scams like this are using blatant lies to prey upon our fears and weaknesses,” said United States Attorney Nick Hanna while announcing the Middlebrook charge.

"While this may be the first federal criminal case in the nation stemming from the pandemic, it certainly will not be the last." ®

Similar topics


Other stories you might like

  • OpenID-based security features added to GitHub Actions as usage doubles

    Single-use tokens and reusable workflows explained at Universe event

    GitHub Universe GitHub Actions have new security based on OpenID, along with the ability to create reusable workflows, while usage has nearly doubled year on year, according to presentations at the Universe event.

    The Actions service was previewed three years ago at Universe 2018, and made generally available a year later. It was a huge feature, building automation into the GitHub platform for the first time (though rival GitLab already offered DevOps automation).

    It require compute resources, called runners, which can be GitHub-hosted or self-hosted. Actions are commands that execute on runners. Jobs are a sequence of steps that can be Actions or shell commands. Workflows are a set of jobs which can run in parallel or sequentially, with dependencies. For example, that deployment cannot take place unless build and test is successful. Actions make it relatively easy to set up continuous integration or continuous delivery, particularly since they are cloud-hosted and even a free plan offers 2,000 automation minutes per month, and more than that for public repositories.

    Continue reading
  • REvil gang member identified living luxury lifestyle in Russia, says German media

    Die Zeit: He's got a Beemer, a Bitcoin watch and a swimming pool

    German news outlets claim to have identified a member of the infamous REvil ransomware gang – who reportedly lives the life of Riley off his ill-gotten gains.

    The gang member, nicknamed Nikolay K by Die Zeit newspaper and the Bayerische Rundfunk radio station, reportedly owns a €70,000 watch with a Bitcoin address engraved on its face and rents yachts for €1,300 a day whenever he goes on holiday.

    "He seems to prefer T-shirts from Gucci, luxurious BMW sportscars and large sunglasses," reported Die Zeit, which partly identified him through social media videos posted by his wife.

    Continue reading
  • A Windows 11 tsunami? No, more of a ripple as Microsoft's latest OS hits 5% PC market

    Next version of Windows 10 looms around the corner

    Microsoft's Windows 11 OS has notched up a respectable near 5 per cent of PCs surveyed by AdDuplex, as another Dev Channel build was unleashed with new features for the favoured few.

    With less than a month of General Availability under its belt, Windows 11 now accounts for 4.8 per cent of "modern" PCs (Windows Insiders running the OS account for 0.3 per cent) according to the ad platform. The figure is up from the 1.3 per cent in September, which was Insider-only and points to some migration to the production version of the software.

    The figure is both an indicator of Microsoft's cautious approach to releasing its wares and the limited amount of hardware that can actually run the round-cornered OS.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021