Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Western District of Washington
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, January 21, 2021
Defendant Persisted Despite Cease and Desist Letter and Consent Decree from Washington State Attorney General
Seattle - A Redmond, Washington, man who held himself out as a biotech expert was arrested today on a federal warrant charging him with introducing misbranded drugs into interstate commerce, announced U.S. Attorney Brian T. Moran. JOHNNY T. STINE, 55, claims to be Founder & President of North Coast Biologics. In a variety of online postings from as early as March 2, 2020, STINE claimed to have a COVID-19 vaccine that he offered to inject in customers for $400-$1000 each. STINE will appear in U.S. District Court in Seattle at 2:00 today.
“Untested, untried and potentially unsafe – this defendant was injecting people with an unknown substance claiming it was a vaccine for COVID-19,” said U.S. Attorney Brian T. Moran. “Preying on our fears in the midst of this pandemic is unconscionable. DOJ continues to investigate and prosecute these fraud cases.”
According to the criminal complaint unsealed today, in early March 2020, the Food and Drug Administration - Office of Criminal Investigation (FDA-OCI), was alerted to Stine’s posts on social media. An investigator made contact with Stine in an undercover capacity, and STINE represented that he had a COVID-19 vaccine for sale. STINE claimed that his main biotech effort was creating vaccines that attack cancer tumors. He indicated that he had used a similar method to develop his COVID-19 vaccine. On March 27, 2020, even as the undercover investigation was ongoing, FDA-OCI received a complaint from an area resident about STINE injecting a friend of the complainant with a “vaccine” for COVID-19. Just this month, January 2021, law enforcement was alerted that at least one person who had been “vaccinated” by STINE was in the hospital battling COVID-19.
In early April, investigators met with Stine in undercover roles. STINE represented to the agents that he traveled across the U.S. giving his vaccine. STINE indicated he would make a trip to Oregon and California to vaccinate family members of the undercover agents.
In late April, responding to complaints from the public, the Washington State Attorney General issued a cease and desist letter to STINE, telling him to stop making claims and offering his “vaccine” for COVID-19. Rather than be deterred, STINE indicated it had just increased demand for his injections which he now called “immunogen” instead of a vaccine. In June, STINE signed a Consent Decree with the Washington State Attorney General wherein he agreed not to promote or sell his COVID-19 vaccine.
Still, in August STINE again communicated with an undercover agent and traveled to Idaho to “vaccinate” the agent. Law enforcement contacted STINE in Idaho and seized the “vaccine.” Agents also executed a court-authorized search warrant on the Redmond warehouse where STINE claimed to conduct his research.
The investigation also revealed that STINE conducted a business preying on cancer patients selling them untested “vaccines” to battle their malignant tumors. That conduct, along with the COVID-19, vaccine is charged in a separate Information filed today in federal court.
“Unproven injectable vaccines purported to prevent or treat COVID-19, made from unknown substances under unknown conditions, present significant health risks in and of themselves. They also can lead consumers to make lifestyle choices that increase their actual risk of infection with COVID-19, or to delay or stop appropriate medical treatment,” said Lisa L. Malinowski, FDA Office of Criminal Investigations Los Angeles Field Office. “The FDA will continue to investigate fraudulent COVID-19 treatments and bring to justice those who try to profit from the pandemic by offering unproven and illegally marketed coronavirus products.”
“The very idea that someone would prey upon fearful people seeking a COVID vaccine in the midst of a global pandemic is not only despicable, but potentially deadly behavior. Equally appalling is the exploitation of vulnerable cancer patients and their families, desperate for treatment,” said Special Agent in Charge Robert Hammer, who oversees Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) operations in the Pacific Northwest. “Snake oil salesmen, such as this, who endanger consumers should take this arrest as a stern warning. HSI, along with our law enforcement partners, remain dedicated to protecting the community from these criminals and the dangerous substances they sell.”
The criminal charges filed today are misdemeanor federal crimes, unrelated to the civil cease and desist letter and civil Consent Decree. The misdemeanors are punishable by up to one year in prison.
The charges contained in the complaint and Information are only allegations. A person is presumed innocent unless and until he or she is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
The case is being investigated by the FDA Office of Criminal Investigations, Homeland Security Investigations, and the Seattle Police Department.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Brian Werner who serves as the COVID-19 fraud coordinator for the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Health Care Fraud
USAO - Washington, Western
Press contact for the U.S. Attorney’s Office is Communications Director Emily Langlie at (206) 553-4110 or Emily.Langlie@usdoj.gov.