LOS ANGELES - As the U.S. Department of Justice cracks down on criminal activity related to the COVID-19 pandemic, officials said anyone caught intentionally spreading the novel coronavirus could face terrorism charges, according to a memo released by the department on Tuesday.
"Threats or attempts to use COVID-19 as a weapon against Americans will not be tolerated," the memo says.
Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen said in the memo that COVID-19 meets the statutory definition of a biological agent.
FILE - City of Las Vegas operations and maintenance staff worker Denis Connelly pressure washes a bench at Centennial Hills Park. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
The memo did not address any specific incidents of people intentionally spreading the virus, but reports of people appearing to mock the pandemic have surfaced.
A man in Missouri was charged for making a terrorist threat when he posted a video of himself licking products at Walmart.
The Warrenton Police Department said that 26-year-old Cody Lee Pfister posted the video on social media, which showed him licking an entire row of deodorant products, appearing to say, “Who’s scared of coronavirus?”
Another women was slammed on social media after posting a video of herself licking a toilet seat on an airplane for an alleged “coronavirus challenge.”
As the number of infected around the world continues to rise past the 500,000 threshold, authorities aren’t tolerating anyone who deems it acceptable to take advantage of the crisis.
The Department of Justice says it will also go after anyone caught hoarding or price gouging high-demand products as well as anyone selling fake coronavirus vaccines.