Fact check: No, legal form does not prove Fauci, DeSantis are in business together

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The claim: Ron DeSantis and Anthony Fauci are in the diamond mining business together

A recent Facebook post claims Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Dr. Anthony Fauci are in business together.

The post includes what appears to be a screenshot of a Uniform Commercial Code-1 – or UCC-1 – form filed with the Florida Secretary of State. The form is typically used by creditors to establish potential rights to debtors' collateral. Fauci and DeSantis are listed as debtors on the form.

"Well what do you know DeSantis and Fauci own a diamond business together of all things!!!!!" reads the images attached to a Nov. 13 Facebook post (direct link, archived link).

A previous version of the claim garnered 90 likes on Instagram before it was deleted. An iteration that was shared on Twitter was retweeted more than 600 times.

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But this claim is false.

Representatives for DeSantis and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, where Fauci is director, said the claim is baseless. Legal experts say the UCC-1 filing referenced in the posts is not valid and was not filed by any of the "debtor parties" listed in it.

USA TODAY reached out to users who shared the claim for comment.

UCC-1 form shown in post is null

Several of the parties mentioned in the post said the viral post is inaccurate. Bryan Griffin, DeSantis' press secretary said the claim was false in emails to USA TODAY. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases likewise said the claim is false in an email to USA TODAY.

Paul Michael Walters, the person who filed the UCC-1 form in the post, told USA TODAY in an email the posts are “total nonsense.”

Walters’ company listed in the form, The Paragon Diamonds, is not a diamond mining operation in Oklahoma and was dissolved about one year ago, he said. Walters said he named DeSantis and Fauci because he felt they were spreading misinformation "regarding the whole COVID-19 fiasco.”

Indeed, legal experts told PolitiFact and AP, outlets that also debunked the claim, the form is null because it’s not used for its intended purpose, and it fails to describe any collateral.

“This is a frivolous filing. It’s not what the form should be used for,” Lynn LoPucki, a professor at the University of Florida’s Levin College of Law, told AP. “The claim doesn’t make any sense.”

A UCC-1 form is “a legal notice filed by creditors to publicly declare their rights to potentially obtain the personal properties of debtors who default on business loans they extend,” according to Investopedia, a financial media website.

Simply filing a UCC-1 doesn’t make it legally valid, a blog post from information services company Wolters Kwuler explains. The form must be authorized by the debtor to be lawful.

A 2019 report by the National Association of Secretaries of State said illegitimate financing statements are a growing problem for state offices that handle the documents, as well as the people targeted in the forms.

It says the filings are "often used as a retaliatory measure by government separatist group members, prison inmates and others looking to harass or intimidate public officials and corporations/lending institutions."

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Our rating: False

Based on our research, we rate FALSE the claim that DeSantis and Fauci are in the diamond mining business together. Several parties listed in the form, including the filer, said the claim is false. Legal experts said the filing is null because it was misused. The company referenced in the post was not related to diamonds and no longer exists.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: No, Fauci and DeSantis don't share diamond business