A Fayetteville woman who sold an illegal pesticide she claimed would protect against COVID-19 has pleaded guilty, authorities said Friday.
Rong Sun, 34, was charged in April after authorities learned she was selling the unregistered pesticide on eBay by advertising it as a product that would keep consumers safe amid the global pandemic.
According to federal prosecutors, Sun imported the product, Toamit Virus Shut Out, from Japan in violation of anti-smuggling laws. She then sold it to unsuspecting customers across the U.S.
The chemical was marketed as “Virus Shut Out” and “Stop The Virus,” and the eBay listing claimed the product could lift viruses and bacteria one meter above a wearer’s body, “just like a portable air cleaner,” authorities said.
Sun also claimed the product could reduce the virus transmissions by 90%.
There is no known cure for COVID-19. The number of coronavirus-related deaths in the U.S. has surpassed 100,000.
“Playing on people’s fears during this pandemic by offering false hope and the empty promise of protection is not only dangerous, it’s also reprehensible and illegal,” said Special Agent Robert Hammer, who oversees Homeland Security Investigations in Georgia and Alabama.
Prosecutors said the product Sun sold is classified as a pesticide since it claims to kill viruses and bacteria. However, it was not registered with the Environmental Protection Agency, as is required in order to sell pesticides in the U.S.
Sun pleaded guilty to violating the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act. She faces up to one year in prison and a $100,000 fine during her sentencing hearing June 29, prosecutors said.
Sun’s attorney, Paul Kish, said his client was told about the product and learned it was widely used in Asia.
“Like many people, my client feared for the health of her family,” Kish said in a written statement. “She did not think it was illegal or harmful, as demonstrated by the photo in her phone showing her young child wearing the product. We fully recognize that the EPA needs to prevent unregistered pesticides from being imported and sold, and we appreciate that the government agreed to resolve this case with a misdemeanor guilty plea.”
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