Law360 (July 13, 2020, 10:26 PM EDT) -- A Kentucky federal judge on Monday ordered the shutdown of a series of related websites and a Facebook page offering preregistration for a nonexistent COVID-19 vaccine in exchange for $100 worth of bitcoin after the Louisville man prosecutors claim is behind the scam agreed to a preliminary injunction.
U.S. District Judge Claria Horn Boom signed off on the agreement between the U.S. Department of Justice and Luke John Flint, requiring the removal of websites with names like "coronavaccine.shop" and "coronavaccine.today," for which the DOJ says Flint is responsible.
The order also prohibits Flint from destroying business records and from committing wire fraud.
"The purpose of these websites, which contain several false statements, is to induce victims to pay Flint and those working in concert with him for a non-existent vaccine for COVID-19 amid the global pandemic," the DOJ said Monday. "There is currently no known FDA approved COVID-19 vaccine."
Flint began registering the domain names on March 13, according to the DOJ's complaint filed Friday. He set up the sites, and a Facebook page for the Corona Vaccine Center, to include promises of COVID-19 vaccine preorders, the DOJ said.
When a website user clicks the preorders link, they are asked to give their name, shipping address, email, and phone number, and to make a $100 payment with the cryptocurrency bitcoin, the DOJ said. It is unclear from the complaint if any victims forked over any cash.
Flint is not a registered medical professional and has no license from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the DOJ said. The address for the purported Vaccine Center is just an empty field and parking lot in Louisville, and the vacant lot is owned by Hard as Steel LLC, a Kentucky company managed by Flint, the DOJ said.
"When interviewed by federal agents, Flint admitted that there is no known FDA approved vaccine for COVID-19 and that he is unaware if and when one would become available," the DOJ said Monday.
In his agreed preliminary injunction, submitted to the court Monday, Flint admitted the DOJ has established evidence that he is about to violate or is violating the federal wire fraud statute.
"Seeking to profit during a global pandemic by offering false hope is both foul and flat out puts vulnerable people at risk," U.S. Attorney Russell Coleman said in a statement. "We will pursue every available legal tool in our toolkit to swiftly put an end to such predatory conduct."
Flint could not be reached for comment Monday.
The government is represented by Nicole Elver and William F. Campbell of the U.S. Attorney's Office in Louisville.
Counsel information for Flint was not immediately available Monday.
The case is U.S. v. Flint, case number 3:20-cv-00489, in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky.
--Editing by Daniel King.
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