Individuals who deliberately spread the CCP virus, which causes the disease COVID-19, could be faced with criminal charges under federal terrorism-related laws, according to the Justice Department.
Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen directed U.S. attorneys, department heads, and law enforcement chiefs around the country to focus their efforts on prosecuting pandemic-related crimes in a memo on Tuesday. One of the categories of offenses Rosen said offices may encounter involves individuals who may engage in the “purposeful exposure and infection of others with COVID-19.”
“Because coronavirus appears to meet the statutory definition of a ‘biological agent’ … such acts potentially could implicate the nation’s terrorism-related statutes,” Rosen wrote in the memo obtained by The Epoch Times. “Threats or attempts to use COVID-19 as a weapon against Americans will not be tolerated.”
The department’s second-in-command also asked prosecutors and investigators to pay attention to other types of crimes such as fraud, sale of fake drugs and cures, price-fixing, bid-rigging, and the hoarding of medical supplies or devices, while adding that the list was not exhaustive.
The department has also formed a new task force to address CCP virus-related market manipulation, hoarding, and price gouging, according to a separate memo sent by Attorney General William Barr on Tuesday. The memo notes that the task force will be led by U.S. Attorney in the District of New Jersey Craig Carpenito with the assistance from the antitrust division’s criminal program.
Barr also directed each U.S. attorney general office and relevant department component to designate an experienced attorney to serve as a member of the task force.
“While this crisis has brought out the best in most Americans, there appear to be a few unfortunate exceptions,” Barr wrote in his memo. “We will not tolerate bad actors who treat the crisis as an opportunity to get rich quick.”
This comes after President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Monday to prevent the price gouging and hoarding of “critical resources” used to combat the CCP virus.
The Epoch Times refers to the novel coronavirus as the CCP virus because the regime’s coverup and mismanagement of the outbreak in Wuhan allowed the virus to spread across China and fan a global pandemic.
The executive order was made pursuant to the Defense Production Act, which prohibits the hoarding of designated items, and directs the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to protect scarce medical and health items.
Barr emphasized on Monday that individuals who stockpile essential supplies will not be the target of the presidential action, but those who hoard items to sell with hiked up prices are and may be subject to investigation.
“If you have a big supply of toilet paper in your house, this is not something you have to worry about, but if you are sitting on a warehouse with surgical masks, you’ll be hearing a knock on your door,” he said.
In the memo issued on Tuesday, Barr said the HHS Secretary has yet to formally designate medical items under the order. He added that the department is beginning to receive reports of individuals who are hoarding “vital medical items” and then making “inappropriate, windfall profits at the expense of public safety and the health and welfare” of the American people.
Several state attorneys general have announced charges against individuals for allegedly exposing people deliberately to the CCP virus. New Jersey attorney general announced on Tuesday that his office had charged a 50-year-old-man for terroristic threats among other charges for allegedly coughing on a food store employee and telling her that he had the virus. Similarly, a Missouri man has been charged with making a terrorist threat after he was filmed licking a number of items at a Walmart.
Isabel van Brugen contributed to this report.