The Pfizer or Moderna vaccine could potentially protect you against Covid-19. The “Virus Shut Out Cards” you purchased through Facebook will not.
Po Shan Wong and Zhen Wu of JCD Distribution Inc. were charged Nov. 10 with selling ineffective coronavirus “air sanitizers” supposedly designed to kill the virus. The blue cards, which are the size of credit cards and are meant to be worn over outer clothing, have not been proven to have any effect on the virus.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has opened a flood gate of fraudsters whose only goal is to take advantage of the public with bogus and unsubstantiated claims of virus protection products, such as this one. Consumers should be skeptical of any device, elixir, lotion or potion claiming to prevent or cure Covid-19 because to date, there is no such product,” Philip R. Bartlett, inspector-in-charge of the United States Postal Inspection Service, said in a statement.
The two alleged schemers, operating out of 13-20 131 St. in College Point, began marketing the “Virus Shut Out Cards” on their company website and Facebook page in May. One post claimed the “portable space disinfection” cards emit chlorine dioxide and have a 99 percent sterilization rate.
But chlorine dioxide, a gas, is a bleaching agent and pesticide they had not registered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. A special agent with the EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division stated in a criminal complaint that the pesticide can cause adverse effects instead, including but not limited to damage to red blood cells, difficulty breathing and chronic bronchitis.
Wong and Wu allegedly claimed the cards could “replace masks” and sold them in minimum quantities of 50 at $9.50 per card.
Undercover investigators placed an order for the minimum quantity on May 7, retailed at $475. The product packaging claimed that the cards contained the pesticide sodium chlorite, which, when exposed to the air, transforms into chlorine dioxide, according to the complaint.
Officials also seized an incoming shipment of 150 boxes at John F. Kennedy International Airport on March 15. The cards originated from Hong Kong, China, and were bound for JCD, the complaint stated.
On July 27, investigators were granted a warrant to search the College Point address, where they recovered 104 large boxes, each containing between 150 and 200 retail-sized boxes of Virus Shut Out Cards.
If convicted, Wong and Wu each face up to one year in prison.
“American consumers continue to be at risk from the illegal sale of products making bogus claims about effectiveness against viruses,” said EPA Special Agent-in-Charge Tyler Amon. “Consumers can help protect themselves by visiting epa.gov/coronavirus for a list of EPA approved disinfectant products.”