istock-504614468_brauns
brauns / iStockphoto.com
2 December 2020AmericasMuireann Bolger

ICE targets COVID-19 vaccine fraud after seizing proceeds worth $26m

The  US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has unveiled the next stage of its operation to combat a wave of fraudulent vaccines and treatments, after seizing more than $26 million in illicit proceeds from COVID-19 related products over the past six months.

In an  announcement on Monday, November 30, the ICE  Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) said that its “Operation Stolen Promise 2.0” would identify and prevent the production, sale and distribution of unapproved or unauthorised COVID-19 products and drugs.

The launch will build upon “ Operation Stolen Promise”, which the agency launched in April 2020 to ward against the threat posed by COVID-19-related fraud and criminal activity. According to the agency, it has made 170 arrests, executed 148 search warrants and analysed more than 69,000 COVID-19 domain names since the founding of the first phase of the operation.

The ICE added that it had seized more than 1,600 shipments of mislabelled, fraudulent, unauthorised or prohibited COVID-19 test kits and other related items when it worked alongside the US Customs and Border Protection.

Operation 2.0 will specifically counter the threat of counterfeit vaccines, treatments and supplies, the agency said.

Derek Benner, executive associate director for HSI, said: “We are committed to protecting the American public and global supply chain from fraud related to COVID vaccines and treatments. “We will continue to use our broad legal authorities and longstanding relationships with domestic and international law enforcement agencies and private sector partners to address this emerging public health threat, and will sustain our efforts to disrupt and dismantle criminal networks seeking to profit from the COVID-19 pandemic.”

According to the announcement, the agency is anticipating a surge in illicit attempts to introduce counterfeit versions of approved vaccines into US and global marketplaces as criminal organisations continue to adapt and capitalise on the demand for access to vaccines and treatments as they are developed and approved.

ICE HSI has been working with pharmaceutical companies involved in developing vaccines and treatments, and aims to disrupt and dismantle fraud schemes by removing illicit websites and other online marketplaces and seizing counterfeit or illicit vaccines and treatments, the statement said.

“Many people, both in government and in industry, are working hard to ensure that the vaccines are properly developed, and once approved, properly and efficiently distributed through a secure supply chain,” said Steve Francis, director of ICE HSI’s IPR Center.

“From production to distribution, these vaccines will require a great level of care and technology along the way in order to ensure they will be effective when they reach the patient. The public should not accept anything from an unapproved source, as an unapproved source can never guarantee that the vaccine is legitimate or that it has been properly stored and transported,” he said.

As part of this effort, the agency is also highlighting ways that the public can protect itself against fraud involving counterfeit vaccines and treatments. ICE is encouraging the public to visit ice.gov for additional information.

To report suspected illicit criminal activity or fraudulent schemes related to the COVID-19 pandemic, email Covid19Fraud@dhs.gov.

Already registered?

Login to your account

To request a FREE 2-week trial subscription, please signup.
NOTE - this can take up to 48hrs to be approved.

Two Weeks Free Trial

For multi-user price options, or to check if your company has an existing subscription that we can add you to for FREE, please email Adrian Tapping at atapping@newtonmedia.co.uk


More on this story

Americas
3 November 2020   US federal agencies are to step up their cooperation on stemming the flow of counterfeit drugs, medical devices, and dietary supplements into the country through the international mail system.
Americas
8 October 2020   US Customs and Border Protection officers have seized hundreds of thousands of counterfeit facemasks and unapproved COVID-19 related products worth more than $2.5m during the six weeks leading up to October 1.

More on this story

Americas
3 November 2020   US federal agencies are to step up their cooperation on stemming the flow of counterfeit drugs, medical devices, and dietary supplements into the country through the international mail system.
Americas
8 October 2020   US Customs and Border Protection officers have seized hundreds of thousands of counterfeit facemasks and unapproved COVID-19 related products worth more than $2.5m during the six weeks leading up to October 1.

More on this story

Americas
3 November 2020   US federal agencies are to step up their cooperation on stemming the flow of counterfeit drugs, medical devices, and dietary supplements into the country through the international mail system.
Americas
8 October 2020   US Customs and Border Protection officers have seized hundreds of thousands of counterfeit facemasks and unapproved COVID-19 related products worth more than $2.5m during the six weeks leading up to October 1.