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British police charge pharmacist with selling phony coronavirus test kits

A notice is seen on March 9 at a pharmacy in St. Thomas' Hospital in London, Britain, advising visitors concerned about the coronavirus outbreak that they have no protective face masks for sale. File Photo by Andy Rain/EPA-EFE
A notice is seen on March 9 at a pharmacy in St. Thomas' Hospital in London, Britain, advising visitors concerned about the coronavirus outbreak that they have no protective face masks for sale. File Photo by Andy Rain/EPA-EFE

April 15 (UPI) -- British authorities have arrested a pharmacist and a surveyor on fraud charges that accuse them of selling phony coronavirus testing kits.

The National Crime Agency said the arrests were part of a crackdown on suspects taking financial advantage of the global health emergency.

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Authorities arrested the pharmacist, 46, in south London for making false and misleading claims about a test he was selling. Police said they also seized about $25,000. The surveyor, 39, was arrested in west London while traveling with 250 "test" kits. He told investigators he planned to sell them to construction workers.

Both of the unidentified suspects have been released on bail.

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"Criminals capitalize on fear and anxiety and they will exploit any opportunity, no matter how awful, to line their pockets," Nikki Holland, the agency's director of investigators, said in a statement. "Illegally selling testing kits completely undermines the nation's collective response to the pandemic and actually endangers lives."

Public Health England has advised against using home kits to test for the coronavirus disease.

"COVID-19 is increasingly being used as a hook to commit fraud and we think these offenses are likely to increase during the pandemic," Graeme Biggar, director-general of the National Economic Crime Center, said. "Individuals and businesses need to be fully prepared for criminals trying to turn the pandemic to their advantage by scamming them out of money."

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Europol said recently it thwarted a plot to defraud German health authorities through sales of face masks. The FBI has also said it's seen fraudsters trying to target government and health agencies in the United States.

Scenes from a pandemic: World copes with COVID-19

A health worker with the Israeli national emergency service, Magen David Adam, wears protective gear while taking swabs to test for COVID-19 at a drive-through testing center in East Jerusalem on August 26. Photo by Debbie Hill/UPI | License Photo

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