Attorney General Barr: Prioritize investigations of fraudsters exploiting coronavirus pandemic

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WASHINGTON, DC – FEBRUARY 10: Attorney General William Barr participates in a press conference at the Department of Justice on February 10, 2020 in Washington, DC. Barr announced the indictment of four members of China’s military on charges of hacking into Equifax Inc. and stealing data from millions of Americans. (Photo by Sarah Silbiger/Getty Images)

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 Attorney General William Barr directed federal prosecutors on Monday to prioritize investigations of fraudsters and hackers exploiting the coronavirus pandemic.

In a memo sent to US attorneys nationwide, Barr cited reports of fake cures for the virus being sold online and email scams from people posing as public health officials as crimes that “cannot be tolerated.”

“The pandemic is dangerous enough without wrongdoers seeking to profit from public panic and this sort of conduct cannot be tolerated,” Barr wrote. “It is essential that the Department of Justice remain vigilant in detecting, investigating, and prosecuting wrongdoing related to the crisis.”

Barr also wrote that the “critical mission” of the Justice Department will continue as the virus spreads and shuts down other pillars of American society.

“We will ensure that the Department’s law enforcement functions operate effectively during this outbreak. It is vital that we work together to safeguard our justice system and thus the safety and security of our nation,” Barr said.

Last week, the Department of Justice warned businesses against price gouging during the pandemic, saying it will hold businesses accountable if they violate antitrust laws during the outbreak.

“The Department of Justice stands ready to make sure that bad actors do not take advantage of emergency response efforts, healthcare providers, or the American people during this crucial time,” Barr said in a statement at the time.

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