Fake Moderna site offered COVID vaccines for sale, federal government says

0


A website mimicking Moderna’s official site claimed to have doses of the coronavirus vaccine for sale before they were widely available, according to documents filed by the Federal Court.

Now a 25-year-old man from Maryland pleads guilty to fraud charges.

Odunayo “Baba” Oluwalade, of Windsor Mill, is one of at least three men accused of orchestrating the scheme, the government said in court documents. The alleged co-conspirators include Oluwalade’s cousin and another man, Kelly Lamont Williams, whose bank account they allegedly used to receive payments for vaccine doses.

Oluwalade was tasked with find bank accounts for the alleged schemefederal prosecutors said in an Oct. 29 press release. He faces up to 20 years in prison at the time of his conviction.

A defense attorney representing Oluwalade declined to comment in a statement to McClatchy News on November 1.

According to court documents, Homeland Security Investigations discovered a website called “Modernatx.shop” in January. The site shared the same name and brand logos as Moderna, along with a text box that read, “You may be able to purchase a COVID-19 vaccine in advance.”

The Federal Trade Commission issued warnings during the vaccine distribution process that offer to pay for early access at once were a scam.

Investigators’ discovery of the bogus website prompted an undercover agent to try and buy doses of the vaccine from the people behind it. In an affidavit accompanying the criminal charges, investigators said the officer was offered 200 doses of the vaccine at $ 30 per dose, or $ 6,000 in total.

The agent was reportedly ordered to send the money to a bank account in Williams’ name.

According to the affidavit, Homeland Security Investigations subsequently searched Williams’ home, as well as the residences of Oluwalade and his cousin. Officers discovered texts between the men detailing the alleged scheme, including information about Williams’ bank account at the Navy Federal Credit Union.

After searching Williams ‘house, but before officers showed up at Oluwalade’s door, they allegedly used Williams’ phone to text him.

In the message, agents posing as Williams asked, “Where do you want me to send the bread?” “

“Yes, send me articles via zelle and others via a cash app,” Oluwalade replied via text message, according to the affidavit.

Prosecutors filed a criminal complaint against Oluwalade in February, according to court documents, and he was arrested the next day. A judge released him from jail on several conditions, including that he report regularly to a supervisory officer, remain in the Maryland District, and refrain from contacting his alleged co-conspirators.

Oluwalade pleaded guilty on Friday to one count of wire fraud.

As part of the deal, Oluwalade conceded knowing that the bank account he found would be used in a fraud scheme, but said he did not know the details of the fraud.

A sentencing date has not been set.

Follow more of our stories on Full coverage of the coronavirus in Washington

View all stories

Hayley Fowler is a reporter for the Charlotte Observer and covers the latest real-time news in North and South Carolina. She graduated in Journalism from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and previously worked as a legal reporter in New York City before joining The Observer in 2019.


Share.

Leave A Reply