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San Antonio man sentenced to federal prison for COVID licking hoax

Trista Eudaily
Texas Public Radio

A federal jury found a San Antonio man guilty of conveying false or misleading information Monday after the man attempted to scare people from local grocery stores last April.

Christopher Charles Perez, also known as "Christopher Robbins," posted twice on Facebook claiming to have paid someone who was infected with COVID-19 to lick things at San Antonio stores.

The threat was false, according to prosecutors and Perez's own admission.

A screenshot of his post was sent to the Southwest Texas Fusion Center, which then contacted San Antonio's FBI office for further investigation.

U.S. Attorney Ashley Hoff said trying to scare people with threats of dangerous diseases is no laughing matter.

"Our community feels safer when we are free from this type of hoax threat. When Perez posted his threats on-line, his hoax posed a very real risk of spreading panic throughout our community at a time when the public was already facing the difficult challenges of a global pandemic. The jury verdict today affirms that hoax threats such as this merit investigation and prosecution," Hoff said in a press release.

Perez was sentenced to 15 months in federal prison on two counts related to the hoax and was ordered to pay a $1,000 fine.

Christopher Combs, the special agent in charge of San Antonio's FBI division, said even if the threat was not carried out, it poses a "significant cost on our community."

"Perez’s threats, made during a pandemic, targeting a business making every effort to provide food, medicine and vital necessities to our community, likely added to the fear and confusion during a difficult time," Combs said.

Brian Kirkpatrick contributed to this story.

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Kathleen Creedon can be reached at kathleen@tpr.org or on Twitter at @Kath_Creedon