New Jersey businessman convicted over bogus COVID cleanup plan
A New Jersey businessman has pleaded guilty to selling disinfectant wipes – including to the US government – that he falsely swore could kill the coronavirus, earning him $2.7 million, say the prosecutors.
Paul Andrecola, 63, was sentenced on Thursday for taking advantage of more than 75 desperate customers at the start of the pandemic who thought they were receiving cleaning products that would protect them from the deadly virus, according to the U.S. District Attorney’s Office. from New Jersey.
“Paul Andrecola’s scheme took advantage of the fears of the American people at the height of concerns about the transmission of COVID-19,” U.S. Attorney Paul Sellinger said in a statement. “Our office is dedicated to protecting public health and prosecuting to the fullest extent of the law those who commit such serious criminal acts.”
Andrecola, who owns two Mount Laurel companies and works for a third, has made disinfectant and wipes that have not been approved by the Environmental Protection Agency, which determines whether a pesticide can effectively kill a virus , including COVID, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
He went to great lengths to look like he had the EPA stamp of approval by putting another company’s EPA registration numbers on his company’s products and using other false documents to try to back up his claims, federal authorities said.
“Andrecola not only deceived dozens of people out of millions of dollars, but also endangered the health of those who relied on its fraudulent virucidal products,” said Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Environment Division. and Natural Resources Department of Justice.
From March 2020 to May 2021, he made over 150 sales, including to a Delaware police department, a Virginia fire department, a Georgia medical clinic, a janitorial supply company in New York, and a system school in Wisconsin.
He also deceived federal entities such as the US Marshal’s Service, Moody Air Force Base, the US Department of Veterans Affairs, and the National Forest Service.
The federal sentencing is the largest case of pandemic fraud related to unregistered pesticides nationwide, authorities said.
Andrecola, who lives in Burlington County, pleaded guilty to one count of knowingly distributing or selling an unregistered pesticide, wire fraud and making a false statement to the United States.
As part of his plea deal, he will lose the $2.74 million he earned from fraudulent sales. He could face more than 20 years in federal prison, as well as additional fines of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
His sentencing will take place on October 11, 2022.