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Man appears in court over alleged sale of 'fake coronavirus kits'
21 March 2020, 19:01
An alleged fraudster accused of attempting to sell dozens of fake coronavirus treatment kits around the world has appeared in court after an international investigation.
City of London Police said Frank Ludlow was arrested on Friday allegedly in the act of sending kits from a post office near his home in West Sussex, after US customs officers in Los Angeles intercepted a package on Wednesday containing 60 fake kits labelled "Anti-Pathogenic treatment" and sent from the UK.
Officers from the Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) charged Ludlow, 59, with one count each of fraud by false representation, possession of articles for use in fraud and unlawfully manufacturing a medicinal product.
He appeared at Brighton Magistrates' Court on Saturday and was remanded in custody until April 20.
British police and the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) launched a joint investigation after being alerted by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and Ludlow was arrested less than four hours later allegedly attempting to send 60 more fake kits to France, the US and other parts of the UK.
Police said the kits are thought to contain potassium thiocyanate and hydrogen peroxide, both of which are extremely harmful chemicals when the user is instructed to wash and rinse their mouth with them.
They are warning anyone who bought one of the kits not to use it.
During a search of Ludlow's home, 300 more kits and an estimated 20 litres of chemicals used in the production of the fake kits were said to have been discovered.
Detective Chief Superintendent Clinton Blackburn said: "Fraudsters are constantly looking for ways in which they can exploit people, including using global emergencies, and times of uncertainty for many, to defraud people out of their money.
"While police have taken swift action to arrest this individual, we believe some of these kits may still be in circulation.
"If you have purchased one of these kits, it's important you do not use it. Instead, report it to Action Fraud via their website www.actionfraud.police.uk or by calling 0300 123 2040 and quoting 'Trinity CV19 treatment kits'."
Tariq Sarwar, of the MHRA, said: "We are encouraging people with health concerns to seek advice from a registered healthcare professional and only purchase medicines they need from an authorised seller.
"You should ensure you are buying your medicines and medical devices from a registered pharmacy or website only.
"When buying online, beware of illegitimate websites, suspicious URLs and remember that claims like '100% safe, no side effects' or 'quick results', are often warning signs. Cut prices and speedy deliveries can expose you to fake medicines, identity theft and fraud."
Steve Francis, director of the US National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Centre, praised the swift response of UK police, adding that people attempting to profit from the virus crisis will be held "accountable for their criminal and dangerous acts".