A Texas man could go to prison for years after he posted a hoax about COVID-19 on Facebook, officials say.
Christopher Charles Perez, a 40-year-old San Antonio man, was convicted Monday on two charges of violation of a law that criminalizes false information and hoaxes related to biological weapons.
“My homeboys cousin has covid19 and has licked every thing for past 2 days cause we paid him too,” Perez posted on Facebook in April 2020, according to court documents. “Big difference is we told him not to be these (expletive) idiots who record and post online...YOU’VE BEEN WARNED.”
A tipster sent a screenshot of the Facebook post to authorities, and the FBI started an investigation.
In an interview with investigators, Perez said he was attempting to deter shoppers from visiting the stores to prevent the spread of COVID-19, according to federal prosecutors.
“To be clear, the alleged threat was false,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Texas said in a news release last year. “No one spread coronavirus at grocery stores.”
Perez could be sent to prison for up to five years on each conviction when he’s sentenced, which is scheduled for September.
“Our community feels safer when we are free from this type of hoax threat,” U.S. Attorney Ashley Hoff said in a statement. “When Perez posted his threats online, 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.”