LOS ANGELES – Agents from the FBI arrested a Southern California man on Wednesday who reportedly claimed to have a cure for the coronavirus. The accused man was selling the fake antidote using Earvin “Magic” Johnson’s name as a ruse to lure investors.
The feds took actor Keith Lawrence Middlebrook, 53, into custody Wednesday evening during an undercover sting operation.
Middlebrook, who held small-time uncredited roles in “Iron Man 3,” “Thor” and “Moneyball,” delivered pills to an undercover agent posing as a potential investor after he allegedly claimed to have personally developed a “patent-pending cure” for COVID-19, the agency said in a statement.
Despite Middlebrook’s small amount of screen time, he has a social media following of nearly 2.5 million Instagram followers, and according to the FBI, at least 2 million people have viewed YouTube and Instagram videos released by Middlebrook that falsely claim he had a “prevention pill” and “injectable cure” for the novel virus, Fox News reported.
As a result of the bogus information being peddled, the associated Instagram account has since been deleted, according to the report.
While trying to dupe investors, Middlebrook is said to have name-dropped Los Angeles Lakers great and business mogul Magic Johnson as a member of his supposed board of directors for his company Quantum Prevention Inc. (QP20), federal agents said. Johnson denied having any knowledge of Middlebrook’s company to authorities.
Furthermore, in the concocted scheme, Middlebrook claimed that his company would mass-produce the potentially life-saving cure that he maintained would prevent the coronavirus. After receiving investor funds, Middlebrook would then issue shares in QP20 as well as Quantum Cure CV 2020 (QC20), an alleged separate entity Middlebrook claimed would bring the serum to market and could cure those infected with COVID-19 in two to three days, the FBI said.
In one text message allegedly sent to a potential investor, Middlebrook wrote: “I have Developed the Cure for the CoronaVirus COVID-19…*LA Patient tested Positive for CoronaVirus got up and walked out 51 hours after my Injection,” according to the affidavit. In the same text message, Middlebrook also allegedly wrote: “Investors who come in at ground level say $1M will parachute with $200M – $300M…Conservative Minimum.”
Middlebrook was charged with one count of attempted wire fraud. The felony offense carries a statutory maximum penalty of 20 years in a federal prison, the FBI said.
“During these difficult days, scams like this are using blatant lies to prey upon our fears and weaknesses,” U.S. Attorney Nick Hanna said in the statement. “While this may be the first federal criminal case in the nation stemming from the pandemic, it certainly will not be the last.”
Hanna added: “I again am urging everyone to be extremely wary of outlandish medical claims and false promises of immense profits. And to those who perpetrate these schemes, know that federal authorities are out in force to protect all Americans, and we will move aggressively against anyone seeking to cheat the public during this critical time.”