U.S. Department of Justice. Courtesy image

Redmond man sentenced for selling fake COVID-19 vaccines

Johnny T. Stine sold his fake COVID-19 vaccines for $400-1,000 each.

On March 8 a Redmond man, Johnny T. Stine, 57, who touted himself as a biotech expert was sentenced to five years of probation and $246,986 in restitution for introducing misbranded drugs into interstate commerce.

Stine claimed to be the founder and president of North Coast Biologics, and in online postings as early as March 2, 2020, show Stine claimed to have developed a COVID-19 vaccine to inject into customers for $400-1,000 each.

“This is a difficult and troubling case…It would be completely reasonable to send you to jail, but I’m going to give you a longer probation sentence so we can keep an eye on you,” said Judge Brian A. Tsuchida, at the hearing.

According to documents filed in the case, the Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Criminal Investigation (FDA-OCI) was alerted of Stine’s social media posts as early as March 2020, and undercover investigators made contact with Stine. In these posts, Stine claimed that his main biotech effort was creating vaccines that attack cancerous tumors, and that he used a similar method to develop for-sale COVID-19 vaccines.

“This wasn’t just a COVID fraud scheme. From 2018-2020 Mr. Stine made more than $200,000 selling cancer patients his ‘vaccines’ that he said would cure their disease,” said U.S. Attorney Nick Brown. “He truly preyed on those who were desperate for any glimmer of hope, injecting people with unapproved substances developed in his rented garage, with no assurance of safety or purity.”

On March 27, 2020, FDA-OCI received a complaint from an area resident about Stine injecting their friend with a COVID-19 “vaccine.” By early April of 2020, undercover investigators met with Stine, who represented that he traveled across the United States giving vaccines. During this time, Stine indicated that he would make a trip to California and Oregon to vaccinate family members of the undercover agents.

In late April of that year, the Washington State Attorney General issued a ‘cease and desist’ letter to Stine, telling him to stop making claims and offering COVID-19 “vaccines,” but the ‘cease and desist’ letter did not deter Stine, who indicated that it simply increased the demand for vaccine injectables, which at that point he was referring to as ‘immunogen.’

In June of 2020 Stine signed a Consent Decree with the Washington State Attorney General, where he agreed to neither promote nor sell his COVID-19 “vaccine.” In August, however, Stine communicated with an undercover agent, and traveled to Idaho to “vaccinate” the agent.

Law enforcement contacted Stine in Idaho and seized the vaccines; agents also executed a court-approved search warrant of his Redmond warehouse where Stine claimed to conduct his research.

“The FDA works tirelessly to identify and neutralize threats to consumers, including halting the sale of products with unproven claims to treat, prevent, or cure COVID-19 and other conditions, such as these unapproved injectable drugs that were purported to be ‘vaccines’,” said Special Agent in Charge Lisa L. Malinowski, FDA-OCI Los Angeles Field Office. “We will continue to investigate and bring to justice those whose actions threaten the public’s health in this time of heightened risks.”

Stine’s case was investigated by FDA-OCI, Homeland Security Investigations, and the Seattle Police Department.

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