NPR News –
Johnny T. Stine, a Seattle man who advertised a supposed Covid-19 “vaccine” he said he created in his personal lab, was arrested Thursday on misdemeanor federal charges of introducing misbranded drugs into interstate commerce.
Stine, 56, could face up to one year in prison if convicted.
Stine came onto the radar of federal authorities in early March 2020, after he advertised injections of the supposed vaccine for $400 on his personal Facebook page, according to the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Washington. At that time, there was no authorized Covid-19 vaccine on the market.
Stine wrote on Facebook that it wasn’t the first time he had “crossed some major lines,” adding that he previously created “personalized tumor vaccines for people who wish to actually fight for their life with legitimate tools, knowledge, and skills that I’ve acquired over the years.”
He also faces charges related to peddling those untested “vaccines.”
Stine told KUOW last May that he had downloaded the coronavirus’s genome sequences from a Chinese database to create the substance. Doing so “literally took half a day to design,” he said.
In that same interview, Stine admitted to injecting himself and several others, including his own son who was a minor at the time. He would not disclose how many shots he administered.
Stine unknowingly made contact with undercover investigators from the the Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Criminal Investigation last April, offering to travel to Oregon and California to “vaccinate” the agents’ family members.
Later that month, Stine was hit with a cease and desist from Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson. But he didn’t stop there.
Facing a state lawsuit in June, Stine entered a consent decree, under which he agreed to hand over the names and contact information of his buyers, disclose how much he charged them, and repay those who requested refunds. Additionally, the agreement imposed a contingency fine of $30,000 for noncompliance.
Still, Stine persisted. Authorities in August seized Stine’s “vaccine” after he traveled to Idaho to inject an undercover agent with the substance. Law enforcement also searched the Redmond warehouse in which he claimed he’d developed it.
But it wasn’t until Thursday that Stine was arrested. Law enforcement was alerted earlier this month that at least one person Stine injected with his concoction was hospitalized for Covid-19, officials say.
“Snake oil salesmen, such as this, who endanger consumers should take this arrest as a stern warning,” said Robert Hammer, a special agent who oversees Homeland Security Investigations’ Pacific Northwest operations, in a written statement. Homeland Security Investigations and the Seattle Police Department are assisting with the investigation into Stine’s conduct.
Separately, state officials are now asking the Pierce County Superior Court to order Stine to pay $63,500 for his alleged misdoings: $25,000 for marketing his purported vaccine to a federal agent, $30,000 in suspended fines for violating the terms of the consent decree, and $8,500 for the cost to the state of bringing a case against him.
“Maximum penalties are warranted here because Mr. Stine’s actions are egregious, and pose a significant public health threat,” wrote Bob Ferguson, Washington State Attorney General in a court filing seeking the sanctions.