Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Middle District of Pennsylvania
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, March 31, 2021
SCRANTON- The United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced that Chinnapatr Chunhasomboon, age 41, of Bangkok, Thailand, was indicted on March 30, 2021, by a federal grand jury for fraudulently selling chloroquine phosphate to United States citizens as a treatment for COVID-19.
According to Acting United States Bruce D. Brandler, the indictment alleges that Chunhasomboon sold unapproved chloroquine phosphate to customers worldwide, including in the United States, as a treatment for both COVID-19 and for malaria. Chunhasomboon allegedly evaded and attempted to evade U.S. Customs inspectors by disguising his shipments of chloroquine phosphate as fish tank accessories and cell phone cases, among other things. Chunhasomboon also allegedly undervalued the shipments to be worth only $10 to $12, when in fact they often were worth several hundred dollars each. Chunhasomboon allegedly made tens of thousands of dollars from his scheme.
Chloroquine phosphate is not approved by the FDA as a COVID-19 treatment, and previously was approved on an emergency basis only in controlled hospital settings and from approved sources. The CDC previously reported that two individuals who ingested chloroquine phosphate they obtained for treating aquarium fish did so as a prophylactic measure against COVID-19. One of those individuals died, and one was left critically ill.
Chunhasomboon is charged with two counts of mail fraud and three counts of wire fraud for selling chloroquine phosphate to four customers located in Pennsylvania. He also is charged with two counts of smuggling chloroquine phosphate into the United States, two counts of introducing misbranded drugs into U.S. commerce, and two counts of introducing unapproved new drugs into U.S. commerce. Chunhasomboon further is charged with two counts of making false statements to federal agents, denying that he sold chloroquine phosphate as either a treatment for COVID-19 or for malaria.
The case was investigated by Homeland Security Investigations, with assistance from the Food and Drug Administration. Assistant U.S. Attorney Phillip J. Caraballo is prosecuting the case.
Criminal indictments are only allegations. All persons charged are presumed to be innocent unless and until found guilty in court.
A sentence following a finding of guilt is imposed by the Judge after consideration of the applicable federal sentencing statutes and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines.
The maximum penalty under federal law for the most serious offenses is 20 years of imprisonment, a term of supervised release following imprisonment, and a fine. Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the Judge is also required to consider and weigh a number of factors, including the nature, circumstances and seriousness of the offense; the history and characteristics of the defendant; and the need to punish the defendant, protect the public and provide for the defendant's educational, vocational and medical needs. For these reasons, the statutory maximum penalty for the offense is not an accurate indicator of the potential sentence for a specific defendant.
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USAO - Pennsylvania, Middle