FBI agents on Wednesday arrested a small-time SoCal actor for allegedly claiming he had invented a pill that would prevent and cure the new coronavirus.
Keith Lawrence Middlebrook, 53, was charged with one count of attempted wire fraud, a felony offense that carries a statutory maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison, according to the FBI.
Middlebrook, whose IMDb credits include tiny, uncredited parts in Iron Man 3, Thor and Moneyball, allegedly claimed to have personally developed a “patent-pending cure” for coronavirus, the pandemic that has devastated the world, according to authorities. (Currently, there is no antiviral treatment for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, and no vaccine to prevent coronavirus infection).
Middlebrook — who actually has a large social media following, including 2.5 million followers on Instagram — was seeking investors for his fraudulent endeavor and claimed Earvin “Magic” Johnson was a member of his company’s board of directors. The Lakers’ icon told authorities he does not know Middlebrook.
“I have Developed the Cure for the CoronaVirus COVID-19…*LA Patient tested Positive for CoronaVirus got up and walked out 51 hours after my Injection,” Middlebrook allegedly said via text to one would-be investor who worked with the FBI on its investigation. In the same text message, cited by federal authorities, Middlebrook allegedly wrote, “Investors who come in at ground level say $1M will parachute with $200M – $300M…Conservative Minimum.”
Middlebrook was arrested during a meeting at which he delivered some sort of pills — purportedly the coronavirus treatment — to an undercover agent who was posing as an investor, the FBI said.
“During these difficult days, scams like this are using blatant lies to prey upon our fears and weaknesses,” said United States Attorney Nick Hanna in a statement. “While this may be the first federal criminal case in the nation stemming from the pandemic, it certainly will not be the last. I again am urging everyone to be extremely wary of outlandish medical claims and false promises of immense profits. And to those who perpetrate these schemes, know that federal authorities are out in force to protect all Americans, and we will move aggressively against anyone seeking to cheat the public during this critical time.”