Ga. Man Accused Of Lying To Employer That He Had COVID-19

By Craig Clough
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Law360 (May 21, 2020, 9:36 PM EDT) -- A Georgia man is being charged with wire fraud after allegedly lying to his employer about testing positive for COVID-19, causing the Fortune 500 company to needlessly stop business at its location and sanitize the workplace, according to a federal criminal complaint unsealed on Thursday.

Santwon Antonio Davis has since admitted that he did not have COVID-19, and his scheme ended up costing his employer about $100,000, according the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Georgia.

The Fortune 500 company was not identified in the complaint, but it noted that the impacted location is in Atlanta.

"Scammers continue to take advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic through a variety of means," Chris Hacker, special agent in charge of the FBI's Atlanta field office, said in a statement. "We receive numerous complaints every day and this case is a reminder that we remain vigilant in detecting, investigating and prosecuting any wrongdoing related to the crisis."

The DOJ said the case was investigated by Georgia's Coronavirus Fraud Task Force, which was formed by state and federal prosecutors and includes the Office of the Governor of Georgia, the Office of the Attorney General of Georgia, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Georgia and other agencies.

"The defendant caused unnecessary economic loss to his employer and distress to his coworkers and their families," U.S. Attorney Byung J. "BJay" Pak said in a statement. "We will take quick action through the Georgia COVID-19 Task Force to put a stop to criminals preying on Georgia companies and the public with coronavirus-related fraud schemes."

According to the complaint filed on May 14, Davis submitted a falsified medical record to his employer in March. The corporation then closed the facility he worked at for cleaning, while continuing to pay the workers, costing the business about $100,000. Several workers were also unnecessary quarantined, the DOJ said. 

Davis told his employer on March 19 that he received a telephone call informing him that his mother had tested positive for COVID-19, according to the complaint. Although Davis's supervisor told him that he could continue working, because it was a "low risk" exposure, Davis clocked out early, because he said he was worried about his mother, the complaint said.

Days later, Davis texted his supervisor that he had tested positive for COVID-19 and later sent an email to his employer with a letter indicating he had been admitted to Wellstar Atlanta Medical Center Hospital South on March 20, according to the complaint. The complaint added that the email was an interstate wire communication, because it traveled through at least Iowa and Kansas before reaching the company's email servers in Pennsylvania.

The letter also apparently said that Davis should be quarantined for 14 days and avoid all contact with people, if possible. The letter did not indicate that Davis had been treated for or diagnosed with COVID-19, and no test results were included in the email, according to the complaint. 

A member of the company's human resources team thought the letter included "some indicia of fraud," including that it stated Davis was discharged in November — months before the purported admission date — as well as being unsigned and not on any formal letterhead. A call placed to the Wellstar facility by a company representative revealed the facility was not conducting COVID-19 tests, according to the complaint. 

Counsel for Davis did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The government is represented by Russell Phillips of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Georgia.

Davis is represented by Kimberly Lynn Sharkey of the Federal Defender Program for the Northern District of Georgia.

The case is U.S. v. Santwon Antonio Davis, case number 1:20-mj-00379, in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia.

--Editing by Nicole Bleier.

For a reprint of this article, please contact reprints@law360.com.

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