A Fayetteville woman who pleaded guilty to selling an illegal pesticide she claimed could protect against COVID-19 was sentenced Monday by federal authorities.
Rong Sun, 34, was sentenced to two years of probation and a fine of $659, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. She faced punishment of up to a year in prison and a $100,000 fine.
Sun was charged by federal authorities in April for smuggling the pesticide into the U.S. and selling it under the claim that it could protect users from the novel coronavirus.
Prosecutors alleged that she violated anti-smuggling laws by importing the product, Toamit Virus Shut Out, from Japan. Because she advertised it on eBay as a product that could kill viruses and bacteria, the product is classified as a pesticide. However, it was not registered with the Environmental Protection Agency, and is therefore illegal to sell as a pesticide.
In an email to AJC.com, Sun’s attorney Paul Kish said, “We continue to recognize that the EPA and other agencies have the responsibility of keeping all of us safe. However, this case involved a criminal prosecution against a young mother who had no idea she was breaking the law. The Court specifically recognized that Ms. Sun did not believe she was doing anything that was harmful, and that she was extremely remorseful that her conduct had broken the law.”
According to the CDC, the best way to prevent illness from COVID-19 is to avoid exposure to the virus through frequent hand washing, social distancing, wearing a mask, cleaning frequently and monitoring one’s own health. There is no vaccine or cure for COVID-19.
In a May statement about his client’s guilty plea, Kish said that Sun was motivated to protect her family.
“She did not think it was illegal or harmful, as demonstrated by the photo in her phone showing her young child wearing the product,” Kish said. “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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