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  • Writer's pictureLucas Nava

Plantz: California men guilty of 'seeking to exploit and benefit from the COVID-19 pandemic'

Two California businessmen and their company pleaded guilty Dec. 1 following an investigation led by Homeland Security Investigations, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Criminal Investigation Division, the Office of the Inspector General, and the California Department of Toxic Substances Control.

Ray Louis Smith Jr., Ramont Joseph Smith and TruClean pleaded guilty to defrauding customers by falsely claiming its antimicrobial cleaning product, TruClean 365, was both tested and approved by the EPA, as well as claiming the product eliminated bacteria and viruses, including COVID-19, on affected surfaces for one year with only one use, according to a Dec. 2 news release. During the onset of the pandemic, the Smiths had the company's labels placed on bottles of chemical products purchased from a separate company based on the East Coast before marketing, selling and distributing them.

“Homeland Security Investigations and our government partners are committed to protecting the American public against criminal networks attempting to illegally sell products that could endanger the lives of U.S. consumers for financial gain,” HSI San Diego Special Agent in Charge Chad Plantz said in the release. “We remain vigilant and will use our broad legal authorities to disrupt and dismantle criminal networks seeking to exploit and benefit from the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Sentencing is currently scheduled for Feb. 24, according to the release. The case was jointly prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of California and the U.S. Department of Justice's Environmental Crimes Section.

“The defendants in this case knowingly persisted in their false assertions that their pesticide application provided protection against COVID-19,” Scot Adair, special agent in charge of the EPA’s criminal program in California, said in the release. “As this case demonstrates, EPA and its law enforcement partners are committed to holding responsible parties accountable for false claims that put entire communities at risk.”

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