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A man has been sentenced to ten months suspended sentence and 170 hours unpaid work, after he pleaded guilty to making fake COVID-19 treatment kits and selling them across the world.
Frank Ludlow, 59, of East Marden, Chichester, pleaded guilty to attempting to supply an unauthorised medicinal product, possessing an unauthorised medicinal product and assembling an unauthorised product. Ludlow was sentenced to a ten month suspended sentence on 09 July 2020 at Portsmouth Crown Court.
Ludlow was first arrested on Friday 20 March 2020 after a joint investigation by the City of London Police, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The case originated when the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency in Los Angeles intercepted a package on the 18 March, containing 60 separate COVID-19 treatment kits labelled as ‘Anti-Pathogenic treatment’, which were sent from the UK. The US FDA determined the product to be an unapproved drug, based on the labelling and directions for use and alerted the MHRA in the UK.
The case was passed to a specialist anti-counterfeit unit within the City of London Police, the national lead force for fraud, at 1300hrs on 20 March 2020. Less than four hours later, Ludlow was arrested by police officers in a post office, attempting to send 60 more fake treatment kits to France, the US, and other parts of the UK.
He appeared at Brighton’s Magistrates Court the next day and was remanded in custody.
Ludlow made approximately £12,000 from selling the fake kits online, which sold for between £1 and £100, but cost only £1 to make. The kits contained hydrogen peroxide concentration of 6.5 % (v/v); potassium thiocyanate, ascorbic acid, an unknown enzyme as well as Bees Pollen. During the search of Ludlow’s home address, officers from the City of London Police discovered 300 more treatment kits and an estimated 20 litres of chemicals used in the production of the fake kits.
Detective Chief Superintendent, Clinton Blackburn, from the City of London Police, said:
“Criminals are preying on people’s fears and anxieties, using the coronavirus outbreak to take their money.
“The kits produced by Ludlow were unlawful and untested. They gave false hope to vulnerable people and their families, offering no medical benefit. This raises the possibility that people with COVID could believe they were cured, thereby inadvertently exposing others to infection.
“The swift, joined-up action taken by police and our regulatory partners across the globe, shows there are no boundaries to our work in fighting fraud, protecting the public and bringing criminals to justice, even during these unprecedented times.”
Tariq Sarwar, Head of Operations for Enforcement at the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, said:
“Making and selling fake coronavirus (COVID-19) treatment kits is endangering patients’ health and increasing the risk of contagion to their families and friends.
“This joint cooperation and intervention with the City of London Police and the FDA show our commitment to protect patients’ health. It is important that people who put other people’s health in danger are brought to justice, and the products are taken out of circulation.
“Please seek advice from a registered healthcare professional if you have medical concerns, and only buy medicines and medical devices from a registered pharmacy or website.”
Dr Ros Lynch, Director of Copyright Enforcement for the IPO said:
“This is an outstanding result for the City of London Police’s Intellectual Property Crime Unit and serves as a reminder that consumers can protect themselves, and their family, by only buying medicines from legitimate sources.”
If you think you have been a victim of fraud, please report it to Action Fraud at https://www.actionfraud.police.uk or by calling 0300 123 2040. If you live in Scotland, please report directly to Police Scotland by calling 101.”
Notes to editors
The Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit is a specialist national police unit dedicated to protecting the UK industries that produce legitimate, high quality, physical goods and online and digital content from intellectual property crime.
The operationally independent unit was launched in September 2013 with funding from the Intellectual Property Office (IPO). The unit is based within the Economic Crime Directorate of the City of London Police, which is the National Policing Lead for Fraud.