A Jericho man and a Queens woman were arrested and charged Tuesday for selling "Virus Shut Out Cards" falsely marketed as air sanitizers to protect users from COVID-19, federal prosecutors said.
Po Shan Wong, 55, of Jericho, and Zhen Wu, 35, of Flushing Queens, each face a misdemeanor charge of distributing and selling one or more pesticides not registered with the Environmental Protection Agency, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office with the Eastern District of New York.
A spokesman for the office said Wong and Wu appeared in federal court in Brooklyn Tuesday, but details from the hearing were not immediately available.
Prosecutors said the defendants sold the credit-card sized disinfectants for JCD Distribution Inc., based in College Point, Queens. Wong worked as the company’s general manager, while Wu was a sales manager, prosecutors said.
Authorities said the "Shut Out" cards were marketed as "portable space disinfection and sterilization cards … with a sterilization rate of 99%."
However, the products, when tested, contained sodium chlorite, which can convert to chlorine dioxide when exposed to water vapor, officials said. Those chemicals can cause breathing difficulties, nose, throat and lung irritation as well as other respiratory ailments, officials said.
"The brazenly false claims allegedly promoted by the defendants about their product potentially endangered the public not only by claiming to protect against the Covid-19 virus, but also by exposing users to the health hazard posed by a misbranded pesticide," said Eastern District Acting U.S. Attorney Seth D. DuCharme in a statement.
The cards were sold in minimum quantities of 50 at $9.50 per card, according to prosecutors.
Wong’s Uniondale-based attorney, Andrew T. Garbarino, could not immediately be reached for comment.
Wu’s Hempstead-based lawyer Peter Brill said his client was released on $50,000 personal-recognizance bond.
Wu is a mother to a young child, Brill said. Her employer copied the product’s effectiveness claims from its distributor, he said. Wu was unaware she helped sell an illegal product, according to Brill.
"My client was not far enough up the food chain to have thought about whether these were illegal or not," he said.
JCD Distribution Inc.'s Facebook page displayed images of the product worn on a lanyard around a woman’s neck, attached to the lapel of a man’s suit, and fastened to a boy’s backpack, according to the criminal complaint filed against Wong and Wu.
Advertisements on the Facebook page also claimed the product was imported from Japan and "deals with the new virus" and "can replace masks," the complaint said.