UPDATED with court info: The FBI said it has arrested Keith Lawrence Middlebrook, whose acting credits include small roles in films including Iron Man 2 and TV series like Entourage. He is being charged with fraud for allegedly soliciting investments in a company he claimed would be used to market pills that prevent coronavirus infections and a shot that cures COVID-19.
The arrest Wednesday came after a criminal complaint was filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles on one count of attempted wire fraud, a felony that could see Middlebrook face 20 years in prison.
On Thursday, U.S. Magistrate Judge John E. McDermott continued Middlebrook’s detention hearing until Friday afternoon, during which time a decision will be made on whether bond will be set. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for April 9 and arraignment April 16.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California, Middlebrook claimed to have personally developed a cure and treatment that prevents coronavirus infection, “even though every major health authority has warned that there is no specific antiviral treatment for COVID-19 and no vaccine to prevent coronavirus infection,” authorities said.
Middlebrook allegedly solicited funds for his company Quantum Prevention CV Inc., and authorities said “he falsely claimed to at least one potential investor that Earvin “Magic” Johnson was a member of the board of directors, according to the affidavit in support of the complaint. Mr. Johnson confirmed to investigators that he knew nothing about Middlebrook’s company.”
Middlebrook claimed his company would mass produce the pills and upon receipt of investor funds would issue shares in both Quantum Prevention CV and Quantum Cure CV 2020, the latter of which Middlebrook claimed would market the serum that could cure COVID-19 patients within two to three days, according to the complaint. In one Instagram video promoting his cure, Middlebrook “states that if he took his pill and walked into the Staples Center filled with COVID-19 positive individuals, he could not contract the virus,” the complaint said.
Middlebrook told an undercover agent posing as an investor that he guaranteed a $300,000 investment in the company “would yield $30 million,” thanks to “a current $10 billion offer from an unnamed buyer in Dubai,” according to the affidavit.
Middlebrook was taken into custody Wednesday during a meeting in which he delivered pills to an undercover agent posing as an investor.
“During these difficult days, scams like this are using blatant lies to prey upon our fears and weaknesses,” said U.S. Attorney Nick Hanna. “While this may be the first federal criminal case in the nation stemming from the pandemic, it certainly will not be the last. 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.”
The FBI’s Major Frauds section is still investigating the case.