The FBI arrested a man on Thursday who claimed to be selling a fake coronavirus cure, in what may be the first federal arrest made related to the novel disease.

The man, Keith Lawrence Middlebrook, was asking his more than 2.4 million Instagram followers for investments in his company, which he claimed had developed pills and an injectable vaccine that would cure people with coronavirus (COVID-19). He claimed that his investors included basketball player Earvin “Magic” Johnson, though Johnson has denied that claim. Middlebrook told his followers that those who invested would get back hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue. His videos on Instagram and YouTube had been viewed about 2 million times, according to officials.


Middlebrook, 53, was arrested after delivering “prevention” pills to an undercover FBI agent. He had spoken to at least two individuals about his “cure,” one cooperating witness and one FBI agent. He was charged with attempted wire fraud and could face up to 20 years in prison. This is not the first time Middlebrook has been arrested; he was charged with wire fraud in 2014 after allegedly running a fake credit score improvement company. That case was dismissed in 2016.

There is currently no cure or vaccine for COVID-19, though researchers have been working on testing both.

The federal government has asked the public to report any scammers they see selling made-up cures. The Food and Drug Administration has already sent cease and desist letters to companies selling essential oils, teas, and tinctures as coronavirus cures, according to CNBC. New York State Attorney General Letitia James ordered conspiracy theorist and radio host Alex Jones to stop selling toothpaste, creams and other products as preventatives for the virus. And Missouri’s Attorney General, Eric Schmitt, sued televangelist Jim Bakker for touting a silver solution as a cure for the virus on his show.