A British man who made thousands by selling bogus Covid-19 treatment kits around the world has been sentenced to a 10 month suspended sentence and 170 hours community service.
Frank Ludlow, 59, of East Marden, Chichester, pleaded guilty at Portsmouth Crown Court to attempting to supply an unauthorised medicinal product, possessing an unauthorised medicinal product and assembling an unauthorised product.
Ludlow was first arrested on 20 March 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 US Customs and Border Protection Agency in Los Angeles first intercepted one of Ludlow’s packages on 18 March. It contained 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.
US officials handed over the case to the City of London’s anti-counterfeit on 20 March. 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 chemicals including hydrogen peroxide, 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, of 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.”
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.
“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.”
Reporting by Associated Press