A New York man is facing fraud charges after he conned several people into buying stolen test kits for the coronavirus and then never gave them the results, the authorities said on Thursday.
The man, Henry Gindt II, 34, sold the test kits for as much as $200 each through his telemedicine website YouHealth, which served as a front for the scheme, according to a newly unsealed criminal complaint in the U.S. District Court in Pittsburgh.
Investigators said that Mr. Gindt had misrepresented himself as being connected with a certified lab that would send people their results after those customers collected nasal specimens with a swab.
Along with the test kits, customers received questionnaires about their symptoms and prepaid shipping labels for the bogus lab, according to the authorities, who said they had been tipped off by a resident of Western Pennsylvania who received an email from Mr. Gindt advertising the home test.
Mr. Gindt was charged with mail fraud, wire fraud and conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, said Scott W. Brady, the U.S. attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania. Mr. Brady warned on Thursday that law enforcement officers were on the lookout for virus-related fraud.
“Let this be a message to anyone who wants to scam our fellow citizens during this pandemic: The Department of Justice will take swift action to disrupt your scheme, and then we will arrest you,” Mr. Brady said in a statement.
Each of the charges against Mr. Gindt carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. He appeared briefly in U.S. District Court in Pittsburgh on Thursday and was released on $50,000 bond.
Mr. Gindt, who has not yet entered a plea, did not immediately respond to phone and email messages seeking comment on Thursday. It was not immediately clear if he had a lawyer.
A U.S. Secret Service special agent said in the criminal complaint that Mr. Gindt had identified himself as a “White House official” on the online open platform Medium.
The special agent, Chase A. Clowser, said that he had bought a home test kit from Mr. Gindt for $195 and that he had traced the kit to a lab in Georgia through its lot number. The company’s chief executive told Mr. Clowser that a former lab executive had been fired for the unauthorized selling of test kits and had taken 50 of the kits without authorization, according to the complaint.
The former lab executive was identified by his initials, a phone number and an email address in the complaint, which said that he had been the lab’s chief operating officer. He had been quoted in news reports on the development of home test kits for the coronavirus, according to the complaint.
The same person was also listed on a FedEx account that was used to send the test kits people ordered from Mr. Gindt, and that person received two bank deposits in March that were connected to the lab scheme, the complaint said.
Reached on Thursday night, the former executive said he had no knowledge of any tests that had been stolen or sold without authorization. He did not respond to further questions.
No one else has been charged in the case. A spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Pittsburgh said on Thursday that it was an ongoing investigation.
The chief executive of the lab in Georgia, who was referred by his initials in the criminal complaint, did not immediately respond to phone and email requests for comment on Thursday night.
The charges against Mr. Gindt are among the latest allegations of illegal conduct related to the coronavirus pandemic.
In March, a Brooklyn man was charged with lying to federal agents about price gouging. The authorities said the man, Baruch Feldheim, 43, had stockpiled 192,000 N95 respirators, 130,000 surgical masks and nearly 600,000 medical-grade gloves, which were redirected to medical workers in New York and New Jersey.
And two Tennessee brothers who stockpiled 17,700 bottles of hand sanitizer avoided prosecution and a fine but won’t recoup the thousands of dollars they spent on the supplies under the terms of a price-gouging settlement that the state attorney general announced last month.