New New York law drafted to fight COVID-19 test fraud
New legislation is expected to crack down on those who exploit the surge in COVID-19 cases with overpriced and poorly delivered virus tests by increasing fines on testing companies and others who profit from the peak to $ 25,000.
State Senator Zellnor Myrie presented the COVID-19 Fraud Liability Act on Dec. 24, claiming that as demand for rapid home PCR and COVID testing reached an all-time high, “bad actors” had started to ride the wave “to seek ill-gotten profits from New Yorkers.”
He cited bogus promises of 48-hour turnaround results to sudden increases in the prices of home test kits as evidence of “white-collar crime.”
In Brooklyn, authorities are already on alert for COVID-19 test fraud. As recently as last week, the LabQ Diagnostics lab in Brooklyn was issued a warning by Attorney General Letitia James after misleading consumers about wait times for COVID-19 tests.
In this case, the diagnostic lab, which runs dozens of testing sites across the city, reportedly announced a 48-hour deadline for testing, but a number of people waited more than 96 hours, according to complaints filed. at James’s office.
It is illegal to mislead people about when they should wait for their test results.
Another New York City testing lab, Labworq, has also been warned for guaranteeing 24-hour results that allegedly took more than five days.
“We should not normally tolerate scams that target New Yorkers or their wallets,” said Senator Myrie.
“But at a time when we are all feeling the effects of this pandemic, we must go the extra mile to deter fraud and punish it when it does occur.”
The new law would also increase penalties for home test kits that drive up the prices of businesses.
The attorney general’s office said it had documented complaints about $ 14 or $ 25 COVID test kits illegally sold for double or even triple this amount.
Raising prices is already illegal, but the legislation would set the minimum penalty for raising test prices at $ 25,000, or three times the amount of any ill-gotten gains.
“My bill would dramatically increase the cost of doing business for these fraudsters and white collar crooks,” said Senator Myrie.
If passed, the legislation would define “abnormal market disruption fraud” in general business law, and also increase penalties for white collar crimes resulting not only from the pandemic, but future emergencies and anomalies. from the market, too.
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