LOS ANGELES – As part of his ongoing campaign to protect Angelenos from businesses unfairly trying to profit from the pandemic, City Attorney Mike Feuer announced today that his office along with the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office have resolved their enforcement action against L.A. area’s Applied BioSciences Corporation, a publicly traded corporation, its President Chris Bridges, and its Chairman Scott Stevens for allegedly unlawfully advertising and selling an in-home COVID-19 antibody test that was not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The settlement, pending court approval, requires defendants to pay a $50,000 civil penalty and to comply with a broad permanent injunction prohibiting them from selling unapproved tests in the future. The settlement was reached after Defendants made full restitution to people who bought the test.
"We're continuing to fight back against those we claim are trying to profit off the pandemic with allegedly fake vaccines, fake tests, fake cures and fake PPE. With our hospitals and healthcare workers overwhelmed with COVID-19, it's never been more crucial to pull unauthorized tests, the results of which can't be trusted," said Feuer. "Moving forward, we know that COVID fear, fatigue, isolation and misinformation can allow scammers to thrive. As we learn of emerging vaccine scams, for example, Angelenos must be informed and vigilant."
"This case should serve as a warning to would-be scammers that my prosecutors are watching. We will not tolerate the false and dangerous marketing of ineffective and unproven COVID-19 tests in Los Angeles County," District Attorney George Gascón said. "The harm is not only financial, but also potentially deadly. Victims, who received false negative test results, may fail to seek treatment and fail to quarantine, contributing to the spread of the disease. Meanwhile, those with false positive test results may seek unnecessary treatment, burdening our already strained healthcare system."
Prior to the pandemic, Applied BioSciences, a corporation with offices in Beverly Hills, California, stated on its website that it was "focused on the development and commercialization of novel, science-driven, synthetic cannabinoid therapeutics/biopharmaceuticals." The Complaint alleges that, following the emergence of COVID-19, Defendants fraudulently marketed and sold unapproved COVID-19 tests that were falsely advertised as being able to be used by consumers entirely at home, without a medical professional or laboratory. The Complaint further states that the FDA had not approved Defendants’ COVID-19 test and therefore the marketing and sales of it allegedly violated California law.
Following entry of the settlement by the court, Applied BioSciences will pay $50,000 in civil penalties and all Defendants agree to permanently stop making misleading claims and selling unapproved COVID-19 tests, among other prohibitions. Additionally, Defendants admit that they sold more than 1,000 tests for a total of approximately $25,000. As part of this settlement, Defendants have already confirmed under penalty of perjury—and the City Attorney’s Office has verified—that they have fully refunded consumers.
Alleged COVID-related scams including price-gouging can be reported to the City Attorney’s Office.
This case was litigated by the City Attorney Criminal and Special Litigation Branch, including Deputy Chief Will Rivera, Supervising Deputy City Attorney Christina Tusan, and Deputy City Attorneys William Pletcher, Miguel Ruiz, Alex Bergjans, and Rebecca Morse. Assistant Head Deputy District Attorney Hoon Chun and Deputy District Attorney Seza Mikikian prosecuted this action for the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office’s Consumer Protection Division.
The Los Angeles City Attorney would like to particularly acknowledge the critical work of investigators from the U.S. Department of Defense, Office of Inspector General, Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS) and the federal National COVID19 Response Team for the Western United States, which referred the case to the City Attorney.