SAN ANTONIO – A federal jury today convicted 40-year-old Christopher Charles Perez, aka “Christopher Robbins,” with perpetrating a COVID-19-related hoax in April of last year.
Jurors convicted Perez on two counts of 18 U.S.C. § 1038, which criminalizes false information and hoaxes related to biological weapons. Evidence presented during trial revealed that Perez posted two threatening messages on Facebook in which he claimed to have paid someone who was infected with COVID-19 to lick items at grocery stores in the San Antonio area because he was trying to scare people away from visiting the stores. On April 5, 2020, a screenshot of the initial posting was sent by an online tip to the Southwest Texas Fusion Center (SWTFC), which then contacted the FBI office in San Antonio for further investigation. To be clear, the threat was false; Perez did not pay someone to intentionally spread coronavirus at grocery stores, according to investigators and Perez’s own admissions.
“Our community feels safer when we are free from this type of hoax threat. When Perez posted his threats on-line, his hoax posed a very real risk of spreading panic throughout our community at a time when the public was already facing the difficult challenges of a global pandemic. The jury verdict today affirms that hoax threats such as this merit investigation and prosecution,” said U.S. Attorney Ashley C. Hoff.
Perez faces up to five years in federal prison for each count of conviction. Sentencing is scheduled for September 20, 2021, before U.S. District Judge David A. Ezra.
“The verdict in this case sends a clear message that the FBI and our law enforcement partners take threats seriously,” said Special Agent in Charge Christopher Combs of the FBI’s San Antonio Division. “Making threats, even those which are not carried out, poses a significant cost on our community. Law enforcement agencies have limited resources and responding to hoax threats diverts officers and costs taxpayers. Perez’s threats, made during a pandemic, targeting a business making every effort to provide food, medicine and vital necessities to our community, likely added to the fear and confusion during a difficult time.”
The FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force, along with Weapons of Mass Destruction personnel, conducted this investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Mark Roomberg, William R. Harris and Kelly Stephenson are prosecuting the case.
If you think that you or your family are the victims of a scam or attempted fraud involving coronavirus, you can report it without leaving your home. Please contact the National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721 or by email at email@example.com. If it’s a cyber scam, you may also submit your complaint at www.ic3.gov.
Learn more about coronavirus-related frauds, as well as combatting and reporting the hoarding and price gouging of critical supplies, from the Department of Justice: https://www.justice.gov/coronavirus.
Making sure that victims of federal crimes are treated with compassion, fairness and respect.