QUINCY, MA — A Quincy man accused of selling what he claimed was a pesticide that could protect those who wore it on a lanyard around their neck from viruses and bacteria at the onset of the coronavirus health crisis pleaded guilty to federal charges on Friday.
The U.S. Attorney's Office said Jiule Lin, 38, advertised the pesticide "Toamit Virus Shut Out" on eBay this past spring. The advertisement said the pesticide contained chlorine dioxide and showed images of the pesticide's supposed ability to remove bacteria, germs and viruses.
Chlorine Dioxide is a chemical compound used in disinfecting water in small doses, but there is no evidence that it will affect airborne bacteria or viruses if worn externally.
Lin pleaded guilty to one count of distribution and sale of an unregistered pesticide. Sentencing will occur at a later date.
"At the height of a raging pandemic killing thousands of people a day, this defendant tried to profit from conning people into believing that a pesticide-coated lanyard would protect them from viruses like COVID-19," U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling said in a statement. "This was dangerous, opportunistic fraud.
"We will always pursue these kinds of cases — I have zero tolerance for people who take advantage of the fears of others during a national health crisis."
Lin was charged under a provision of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act that regulates the production, sale and distribution of pesticides. Pesticides must be registered with the EPA.
The U.S. Attorney's Office said Lin never sought registration approval for Toamit Virus Shut Out.
"Bogus claims by sellers claiming to offer products that control viruses continues to pose a risk to consumers nationwide," Tyler Amon, Special Agent in Charge for U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Criminal Investigation Division for New England, said. "EPA and our law enforcement partners will continue to focus efforts on stopping the sale of these illegal products."
Those convicted of violating the pesticide statute are subject to one year in prison and a fine of $25,000.
"(Homeland Security) remains committed to investigating individuals and companies who seek to exploit our citizens through criminal means," David Magdycz, Acting Special Agent in Charge, Homeland Security Investigations, Boston, said. "Fraudulent schemes that have an effect on the health and safety of the public, especially during a national pandemic, are deplorable.
"Comprising legitimate trade and endangering American citizens is a serious offense. HSI will continue to work hand in hand with our federal partners and the United States Attorney's Office to pursue this criminal activity."