A Del Boy crook raked in thousands cashing in on the coronavirus pandemic with fake testing kits.
He made the knock-off treatment kits and sold them around the world before being rumbled by US cops.
Frank Ludlow was said to have made around £12,000 by selling the test kits, comprised of random chemicals and flogged at prices from £1 to £100, police said.
The 59-year-old was caught when customs agents in Los Angeles intercepted a package on March 18 destined for Utah containing 60 separate COVID-19 treatment kits labelled as ‘Anti-Pathogenic treatment’, which were sent from the UK.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) discovered the product was an unapproved drug, based on the labelling and directions for use and alerted the Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) in Britain.
(Image: City of London Police / SWNS.COM)
Less than four hours later, Ludlow was arrested by police officers in a post office in his home town in Chichester, West Sussex, trying to send 60 more fake treatment kits to France, the US, and other parts of the UK.
Ludlow made around £12,000 from selling the fake kits online, which sold for between £1 and £100, but cost just £1 to make. The kits contained hydrogen peroxide concentration of 6.5 per cent of potassium thiocyanate, ascorbic acid, an unknown enzyme as well as bees pollen, police said.
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.
Ludlow appeared at Brighton’s Magistrates Court the next day and was remanded in custody.
He pleaded guilty to attempting to supply an unauthorised medicinal product, possessing an unauthorised medicinal product and assembling an unauthorised product
(Image: City of London Police / SWNS.COM).
At Portsmouth Crown Court today Ludlow was sentenced to a ten month suspended sentence and 170 hours unpaid work.
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 selling fake kits was “endangering patients’ health” and increasing the risk of spreading the virus.
He added: “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.”
Ludlow was first arrested on March 20 after the joint investigation by the City of London Police, the MHRA and the US FDA. The case was passed to a specialist anti-counterfeit unit within the City of London Police, the national lead force for fraud.
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.”