A Texas man who posted on Facebook that he paid someone sick with Covid-19 to intentionally spread the virus at San Antonio grocery stores by licking items was sentenced Monday to just over a year in prison.
Christopher Charles Perez, who also goes by the last name Robbins, was found guilty by a federal jury of two counts of making false hoaxes related to biological weapons, the Justice Department said in a statement.
According to court documents, Perez posted: "My homeboys cousin has covid19 and has licked every thing for past 2 days cause we paid him too [sic]. Big difference is we told him not to be these f------ idiots who record and post online. . .YOU'VE BEEN WARNED!!!"
A screenshot of the post was sent April 5, 2020, to the Southwest Texas Fusion Center, which then contacted the FBI bureau in San Antonio.
Perez, 40, told investigators that the post was a hoax. He said he wrote it because he thought too many people were still out grocery shopping and "was trying to scare people from the stores in order to stop them from spreading the virus to keep people safe," court documents state. He added that he did not know anyone who had the coronavirus, according to the documents.
Investigators also determined that the post was a hoax, but U.S. Attorney Ashley C. Hoff said "trying to scare people with the threat of spreading dangerous diseases is no joking matter."
“This office takes seriously threats to harm the community and will prosecute them to the full extent of the law," Hoff said in the statement.
“Those who would threaten to use COVID-19 as a weapon against others will be held accountable for their actions, even if the threat was a hoax,” FBI San Antonio Division Special Agent in Charge Christopher Combs added. “Perez’s actions were knowingly designed to spread fear and panic and today’s sentencing illustrates the seriousness of this crime. The FBI would like to thank our law enforcement partners for their help in this case.”
In addition to time in prison, Perez was ordered to pay a $1,000 fine.