Federal officers seize fake COVID-19 test kits at Los Angeles International Airport

Carlos Lozano
A commerical jet takes off from LAX, the nation's second-busiest airport.  (Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times)

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at Los Angeles International Airport intercepted a package containing suspected counterfeit COVID-19 test kits arriving from the United Kingdom, officials said Saturday.

Officers working in the airport’s international mail facility on Thursday discovered six plastic bags containing numerous vials in a parcel labeled “Purified Water Vials,” authorities said in a prepared statement.

After further examination, the officers found vials filled with a white liquid and labeled “Corona Virus 2019nconv (COVID-19)” and “Virus1 Test Kit,” authorities said. The shipment was then turned over to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for analysis.

“Protecting the health and safety of the American people is a top priority for CBP,” Carlos C. Martel, the agency's director of field operations in Los Angeles, said in the statement. “This significant interception, at a time when the U.S. is in the midst of a National Emergency, demonstrates our CBP officers’ vigilance and commitment to ensure dangerous goods are intercepted and not a threat to our communities and our people.”

Authorized diagnostic testing for COVID-19 is conducted in verified state and local public health laboratories across the country. Federal authorities warned that the public should be aware of bogus home testing kits for sale either online or in informal direct to consumer settings.

“CBP commits substantial resources to detect, intercept and seize illicit goods arriving in the air package environment,” said LaFonda Sutton-Burke, CBP port director at LAX. “Smugglers are constantly attempting to take advantage of consumers by disguising their illicit goods as legitimate shipments.”