In one of the first federal cases of its kind, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California has announced fraud charges against a Southern California man accused of fraudulently soliciting investments for companies he claimed had developed a pill that could prevent and cure coronavirus infections (COVID-19).
Keith Lawrence Middlebrook, 52, was indicted by a federal grand jury on 11 counts of wire fraud. He was released on May 6 after posting a $150,000 bond. Attorney information wasn’t available.
According to the indictment, Middlebrook announced in March that he had personally invented a pill that could prevent and cure COVID-19, even though health authorities both in the U.S. and abroad have confirmed there currently is no vaccine or specific medicine known to prevent or cure an infection. His alleged miracle cure included ingredients such as cocoa bean, green tea leaf extract, white willow bark, and the herb ma-huang.
Middlebrook solicited million-dollar investments with a series of false promises using his companies: Quantum Prevention CV Inc. (QP20) and Quantum Cure CV 2020 Inc. (QC20). The promises included miraculous results from his cure and prevention product, which he claimed were “risk free” and guaranteed to bring “enormous returns on investments,” according to the indictment.
To help bolster these claims, Middlebrook told potential investors that an unnamed party in Dubai had offered to buy his companies for $10 billion. He claimed to have received millions from seven investors already, the indictment states. He also claimed retired basketball player Earvin “Magic” Johnson was on his board of directors. Investigators confirmed Johnson was not involved in the venture.
“Through text messages, videos, and statements sent to potential investors and posted on the internet, including on Instagram and YouTube, defendant Middlebrook falsely claimed to have developed a cure for the COVID-19 virus, which he called ‘QC20,’ and a treatment that prevented a person from being infected by the COVID-19 virus, which he called ‘QP20,’” according to the indictment.
Middlebrook was arrested by the FBI on March 25 after he purportedly delivered pills that he claimed prevented coronavirus infection to an undercover agent who was posing as an investor. Two of his charges stem from communications he had with the agent.
If convicted, Middlebrook faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison for each count of wire fraud. The U.S. Attorney’s Office noted that an indictment is just an allegation that someone broke the law. The accused is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
Middlebrook’s case is believed to be the first in the U.S. connected to a coronavirus scam.
“While this may be the first federal criminal case in the nation stemming from the pandemic, it certainly will not be the last. I again am urging everyone to be extremely wary of outlandish medical claims and false promises of immense profits,” said U.S. Attorney Nick Hanna.
South Florida Fraud Defense Attorney