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Washington man charged with selling drugs to ‘stop’ COVID

April 30, 2020 GMT

TACOMA, Wash. (AP) — A former Washington state naturopath with a history of quackery is now facing federal charges that he promoted mislabeled drugs as being able to “stop” the new coronavirus.

Richard “Rick” Marschall, of Port Angeles, was previously convicted of federal charges in 2011 and in 2017 for distributing misbranded drugs, after he sold HCG, a hormone produced during pregnancy, for weight-loss. The Washington Department of Health suspended his credential as a naturopathic physician in 2013 and permanently revoked it in 2018.

In a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court on Wednesday, a special agent with the Food and Drug Administration wrote that the agency began investigating the 67-year-old again last month after receiving complaints that on Facebook he was promoting compounds as being able to fight COVID-19. Marschall billed himself online as a health coach and retired naturopath.

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According to the complaint, one undercover agent texted Marschall to say she was worried about getting the coronavirus and paid $140 for what he marketed as the “Dynamic Duo” — two compounds that he claimed could “stop” the virus. One was purportedly a substance derived from garlic, the other from larch trees.

Authorities have been warning people to watch out for coronavirus-related scams. Earlier this week, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson threatened to sue a Seattle-based business, North Coast Biologics, if it didn’t stop selling a so-called COVID-19 “vaccine.”

“At a time when scientists are scrambling to identify COVID-19 treatments and vaccines, it is unconscionable and cruel to take people’s money for false hope and promises of a cure,” U.S. Attorney Brian T. Moran said in a news release. “This defendant knew better than to be peddling misbranded drugs. Fortunately, the community quickly notified law enforcement when they saw he had launched this scheme with a COVID-19 twist.”

Neither Marschall nor his attorney immediately returned messages seeking comment Thursday. Marschall is charged with introducing misbranded drugs into interstate commerce. He was scheduled to make an initial appearance in court by teleconference on May 12.

The U.S. attorney’s office said that due to his prior convictions, he faces increased penalties: up to three years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

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