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Published 4/8/2020
2:18pm

Nessel’s Office Tells Businesses to Stop Selling Fake COVID-19 Test Kits

VitaStik Inc. and $tronghold Inc. Claim Tests Were In Process of FDA Approval, FDA Says That's Not True

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In continuing efforts to protect residents from scams and price-gouging related to coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office on Wednesday contacted two related businesses demanding they stop marketing and selling fake at-home COVID-19 test kits to Michigan consumers.

The Attorney General’s letter was sent to VitaStik Inc. and $tronghold Inc. – both registered in Las Vegas, Nevada, but operating in Beverly Hills, California – after a concerned Michigan consumer reported the businesses’ website promoting at-home COVID-19 test kits. The kits were marketed at $25 each and described as being 96.3 percent accurate, with results available in 15 minutes.

No such kits have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has warned consumers that all such promotions are scams.

A special agent from the Attorney General’s office contacted the business owner who said the test kits were going through approval processes with the FDA. When following up on those claims, the agent found them to be false as no one at the FDA had knowledge of the business owner or the kits.

Based on that, the Attorney General’s office believes the businesses to be in violation of the Michigan Consumer Protection Act and demanded they stop selling the phony kits to Michigan consumers and provide refunds to any consumer who may have already purchased some. Federal authorities may take further enforcement action. The company responded by saying it will comply with the office’s request.

“During public emergencies, it’s common for scams to become more prevalent and consumers must be cautious,” Nessel said. “I appreciate the consumer reports that continue to be filed with my office, and my Consumer Protection team and I will keep fighting to ensure hard-working, honest people are protected from scammers and price-gougers.”

The number of COVID-19-related price-gouging complaints filed with the Attorney General’s office as of 7 a.m. today was at 2,806. That includes 1,367 complaints filed online through the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection website, and 1,439 complaints taken by phone.

Consumers can file a complaint online or by calling the Consumer Protection tip line, 877-765-8388. Hours of operation are between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.   

The Attorney General’s office has received reports from business owners who have been subjects of the office’s efforts to rein in price-gouging. Those business owners have been receiving threats from members of the public.  

Price-gouging is a civil violation under the Michigan Consumer Protection Act. The Attorney General’s office finds residents who call out price-gouging on social media helpful, as are those who tell the office about it. But responding to price-gouging by threatening violence is a crime. It will not be tolerated, and it can be prosecuted.  

Information around this outbreak is changing rapidly.

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Update 4/5/2020

Benteler Automotive Corporation in West Michigan will lay off 1,000 employees.  The company notified the state of the temporary layoffs due to global impacts on the supply chain.

Cease and desist letters were sent to three non-essential Upper Peninsula businesses for remaining open when only essential businesses should be open.  Auto Credit Center, Grow Masters Indoor & Outdoor Gardening Supplies and Holy Smokes Tobacco Shop, all in Menominee County, were hand-delivered the letters by Michigan State Police.

Michigan State University is launching virtual courses aimed at anyone interested in gardening.  The Cabin Fever Conversations series features a different guest speaker each week.

Meijer is now conducting health-screenings of employees before each shift.  The West Michigan-based retailer joins other companies taking extra steps to keep employees and customers safe.

The Treasury Department has announced that Social Security recipients will automatically receive the direct payment being made to Americans as part of the CARES Act, Congressman John Moolenaar said, noting that he supported the initiative. Social Security recipients who normally do not file a tax return, do not need to file one to receive the payment.

Lansing Police are asking for help locating a missing teen.  Demasio Nino Perez is 14 years old, 6'1 and 155 pounds, police say, and was reported as a runaway/missing person last seen in the 500 block of Riley Street in Lansing.  He was wearing black and grey sweatpants and a grey t-shirt.  Call 517-483-4600 with information.

Saginaw parks and playgrounds have closed to vehicle access effective immediately.  Anyone wishing to utilize a city park will have to enter on foot until further notice.

The MHSAA has cancelled the remainder of the 2019-2020 winter and sports seasons.  This marks the first year since 1942-1943 that finals will not be played.  World War II forced the cancellation of many final sporting events.

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