'Snake oil' salesman arrested after providing unauthorized COVID vaccines

Johnny Stine allegedly traveled across the United States charging between $400 and $1,000 a dose for his misbranded drug, as far back as April.

Medical worker prepares a COVID-19 vaccine injection, at a Clalit  vaccination center in Jerusalem, January 21, 2021 (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH 90)
Medical worker prepares a COVID-19 vaccine injection, at a Clalit vaccination center in Jerusalem, January 21, 2021
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH 90)
A man from Redmond, Washington will be facing charges for illegally administering COVID-19 vaccines to patients, according to a Justice Department statement.
The man, Johnny Stine, who claims to be the founder and president of North Coast Biologics, allegedly traveled across the United States charging between $400 and $1,000 a dose for his misbranded drug, as far back as April 2020.
"Untested, untried and potentially unsafe – this defendant was injecting people with an unknown substance claiming it was a vaccine for COVID-19,” said US Attorney Brian T. Moran.  “Preying on our fears in the midst of this pandemic is unconscionable.  DOJ continues to investigate and prosecute these fraud cases.”
The Washington State attorney-general issued the decree after receiving a criminal complaint from the Food and Drug Administration - Office of Criminal Investigation (FDA-OCI), which was alerted to Stine's posts advertising the drug on social media.
Through an undercover sting, an investigator made contact with Stine, who misrepresented the COVID-19 vaccine as being an authorized drug, which he introduced into interstate commerce. He claimed that his main biotech efforts were focused on creating vaccines for cancerous tumors, and indicated that he used similar methods to develop the COVID-19 vaccine, although not FDA approved.
Stine admitted to the undercover officers that he would make the trip to California and Oregon in order to administer the vaccine to the agents' family members.
The complaint received by the FDA came from a Washington area resident who claimed that Stine had injected a friend with the unauthorized drug. Officials state that at least one person has ended up in the hospital battling COVID-19 after being inoculated by Stine.
In April, the State of Washington issued a cease and desist letter to Stine, ordering him to "stop making claims and offering his 'vaccine' for COVID-19," according to the statement.
Once receiving the notice, Stine began to then market his cure as an "immunogen" instead of a "vaccine," in true snake oil salesman fashion. In June, Stine entered a Consent Decree with the Washington State attorney-general wherein he agreed to stop promoting or selling his COVID cure.
By August, Stine had continued to make contact with the undercover agents, claiming that his services were still available. Law enforcement then contacted the salesman in Idaho, confiscating the misbranded drugs in the process. They also conducted a search and seizure on the Redmond warehouse in which he claimed to be conducting research.
“Unproven, injectable vaccines purported to prevent or treat COVID-19, made from unknown substances under unknown conditions, present significant health risks in and of themselves," said Lisa L. Malinowski, of the FDA Office of Criminal Investigations Los Angeles Field Office. "They also can lead consumers to make lifestyle choices that increase their actual risk of infection with COVID-19, or to delay or stop appropriate medical treatment.
“The FDA will continue to investigate fraudulent COVID-19 treatments and bring to justice those who try to profit from the pandemic by offering unproven and illegally marketed coronavirus products.”
“The very idea that someone would prey upon fearful people seeking a COVID vaccine in the midst of a global pandemic is not only despicable, but potentially deadly behavior," said special agent in charge Robert Hammer, who oversees Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) operations in the Pacific Northwest. "Equally appalling is the exploitation of vulnerable cancer patients and their families, desperate for treatment."
“Snake oil salesmen, such as this, who endanger consumers, should take this arrest as a stern warning," he added. "HSI, along with our law enforcement partners, remain dedicated to protecting the community from these criminals and the dangerous substances they sell.”
Stine will now face misdemeanor federal charges "unrelated to the civil cease and desist letter and civil Consent Decree," which are punishable by up to a year in prison. The case will be investigated by the FDA-OCI, Homeland Security Investigations and the Seattle Police Department. Prosecution will be led by assistant United States attorney Brian Werner, who serves as the COVID-19 fraud coordinator for the US Attorney’s Office.


Tags fraud vaccine