Federal Court Issues Temporary Restraining Order against Fort Davis Businessman Offering Fraudulent Coronavirus Cures/Treatments
Today, federal authorities served a civil injunction against 73-year-old Fort Davis resident Marc “White Eagle” Travalino in an effort to combat alleged fraud related to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, announced Assistant Attorney General Jody Hunt of the Department of Justice’s Civil Division; U.S. Attorney John F. Bash; FBI Special Agent in Charge Luis M. Quesada, El Paso Field Office; and, Special Agent in Charge Charles L. Grinstead, U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Office of Criminal Investigations, Kansas City Field Office.
The purpose of the civil injunction is to stop Travalino’s sale of fraudulent COVID-19 cures through his business and his website, “whiteeaglenativeherbs.net.” Court records state that after guaranteeing an undercover special agent that his hospitalized grandmother would not die from COVID-19 if given the medicine, Travalino allegedly sold the agent a treatment for COVID-19 on May 5, 2020. On May 14, 2020, the FDA and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) sent Travalino a warning letter requiring him to cease and desist sales of unapproved and unproven products related to COVID-19 cures and treatments. But almost a week after he was warned to stop, Travalino again sold his fraudulent COVID-19 treatments to another undercover agent.
Today’s action will shutter Travalino’s website immediately while this investigation continues. In so doing, the government is employing a federal statute that permits federal courts to issue injunctions to prevent harm to potential victims of fraudulent schemes.
“I am pleased that the district court entered the temporary restraining order. Peddling bogus COVID-19 cures to fellow citizens is illegal and immoral. Our office will continue to shut down these scams,” stated U.S. Attorney Bash.
“The sale of false cures will be vigorously investigated by the FBI,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Quesada. “The FBI is using a variety of tools to identify anyone who exploits the current crisis with fraudulent scams or a variety of cyber schemes – and is proactively warning the public about products claiming to save lives, before losing their money or creating false hope. Scammers seeking to profit by exploiting fear and uncertainty during this COVID-19 pandemic will be brought to justice.”
The Department of Justice recommends that Americans to take the following precautionary measures to protect themselves from known and emerging scams related to COVID-19:
- Independently verify the identity of any company, charity, or individual that contacts you regarding COVID-19.
- Check the websites and email addresses offering information, products, or services related to COVID-19. Be aware that scammers often employ addresses that differ only slightly from those belonging to the entities they are impersonating. For example, they might use “cdc.com” or “cdc.org” instead of “cdc.gov.”
- Be wary of unsolicited emails offering information, supplies, or treatment for COVID-19 or requesting your personal information for medical purposes. Legitimate health authorities will not contact the general public this way.
- Do not click on links or open email attachments from unknown or unverified sources. Doing so could download a virus onto your computer or device.
- Make sure the anti-malware and anti-virus software on your computer is operating and up to date.
- Ignore offers for a COVID-19 vaccine, cure, or treatment. Remember, if a vaccine becomes available, you won’t hear about it for the first time through an email, online ad, or unsolicited sales pitch.
- Check online reviews of any company offering COVID-19 products or supplies. Avoid companies whose customers have complained about not receiving items.
- Research any charities or crowdfunding sites soliciting donations in connection with COVID-19 before giving any donation. Remember, an organization may not be legitimate even if it uses words like “CDC” or “government” in its name or has reputable looking seals or logos on its materials. For online resources on donating wisely, visit the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) website.
- Be wary of any business, charity, or individual requesting payments or donations in cash, by wire transfer, gift card, or through the mail. Don’t send money through any of these channels.
- Be cautious of “investment opportunities” tied to COVID-19, especially those based on claims that a small company’s products or services can help stop the virus. If you decide to invest, carefully research the investment beforehand. For information on how to avoid investment fraud, visit the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) website.
For the most up-to-date information on COVID-19, consumers may visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and WHO websites. In addition, the public is urged to report suspected fraud schemes related to COVID-19 by calling the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) hotline (1-866-720-5721) or by e-mailing the NCDF at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The enforcement action taken today is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys John Cannizzaro, Eddie Castillo and Michael C. Galdo of the Western District of Texas, and Senior Litigation Counsel Ross S. Goldstein of the Civil Division’s Consumer Protection Branch. Special Agents with the FDA and the FBI’s El Paso Field Office are conducting the investigation.
The claims made in the complaint are allegations that, if the case were to proceed to trial, the government must prove to receive a permanent injunction against the defendant.
Additional information about the Consumer Protection Branch and its enforcement efforts may be found at www.justice.gov/civil/consumer-protection-branch. For more information about the United States Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Texas, visit its website at www.justice.gov/usao-wdtx. For information about the Department of Justice’s efforts to stop COVID-19 fraud, visit www.justice.gov/coronavirus.
The year 2020 marks the 150th anniversary of the Department of Justice. Learn more about the history of our agency at www.Justice.gov/Celebrating150Years.