Special agents seize unauthorized COVID-19 test kits, diluted cleaning supplies at El Paso border

El Paso News

Photo courtesy of ICE Public Affairs.

EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — Special agents with Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) of El Paso have seized several fraudulent, mislabeled, and unauthorized COVID-19 related products valued at nearly $140,000 across the El Paso-Juarez border.

Special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) HSI have collaborated with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and other law enforcement partners to seize several shipments of fraudulent COVID-19 related products.

According to an ICE news release, the shipments seized included unauthorized test kits, face masks, diluted cleaning solutions, anti-viral products and other personal protective equipment (PPE).

“It’s a tragedy that greedy, unscrupulous individuals would risk the health and lives of people to make a quick buck,” said Erik P. Breitzke, acting special agent in charge of HSI El Paso. “HSI and our law enforcement partners are working diligently to prevent these unauthorized and potentially unsafe products from entering the marketplace to ensure the safety of the American people”.

The shipments seized include two shipments of unauthorized COVID-19 test kits, five shipments of purported anti-viral products, and four shipments of mislabeled and FDA unapproved face masks.

According to the release, the test kits and face masks were mislabeled in violation of Importation, Removal and Contrary to Law and the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.

A shipment of Clorox and hand sanitizers were tested and found to be have been diluted.

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“CBP officers are working hard to keep their communities safe. Stopping unapproved, diluted and potentially unsafe products before they reach the consumer can help save lives,” said CBP El Paso Director of Field Operation Hector Mancha. “Those purchasing PPE, cleaning supplies and other products in attempt to protect themselves during the pandemic should only do so through trusted and established providers.”

Last month, HSI launched “Operation Stolen Promise” to prevent and investigate illegal criminal activity surrounding COVID-19, strengthen global supply-chain security and protect the American public.

As of May 4, HSI special agents have opened over 315 investigations nationwide and seized over $3.2 million in illicit proceeds, according to the release.

The public is urged to report suspected COVID-19 fraud to COVID19FRAUD@DHS.GOV.

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