Man who ‘capitalized on COVID fears’ convicted of selling pesticides as virus protection

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Federal courthouse
Federal Courthouse in downtown San Diego. Photo by Chris Stone

A San Diego man who pleaded guilty to federal charges related to his false representations of an unregistered pesticide product from Japan was sentenced Friday to eight months in prison.

Samir Haj has been accused of illegally importing, selling and shipping the product, marketed for its alleged ability to kill airborne viruses like COVID-19.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the product, EcoAirDoctor, allegedly emitted a gas that would kill viruses from a distance, and was incorrectly described as an air purifier rather than a pesticide. The product consisted of a badge that consumers could attach to their clothing to release chlorine dioxide into the air, prosecutors said.

Haj, 47, admitted selling the product despite lacking the proper registration, as required for pesticides in the United States, as well as falsely declaring the value of the product when imported, resulting in an under -payment of customs duties of $33,919, prosecutors said.

The product was also shipped to customers despite containing sodium chlorite, which cannot be shipped under U.S. postal regulations due to its propensity to cause fires and explosions, according to the U.S. attorney’s office. . Although one package was rejected by the Postal Service because it contained a “dangerous and unusable substance”, prosecutors said more than 300 additional packages were mailed.

According to the prosecution’s sentencing documents, Haj and his San Diego-based company, EcoShield LLC, made more than $1.1 million in sales inside and outside the country.

“Not only did this product not work, it was even potentially harmful,” said US Attorney Randy Grossman. “Defendant and his company will be held liable for taking advantage of COVID-related fears during a global pandemic.”

As part of the plea agreements, Haj and EcoShield also agreed to forfeit $427,689, the proceeds from the sale of EcoAirDoctor. The company also agreed to pay a fine of $42,000, including $86,754 to pay in compensation for unpaid duties and the cost of disposing of unsold products.

– City News Service

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