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Update, March 24: Courts and Law Enforcement Respond to Coronavirus

In light of the national emergency due to the outbreak of Coronavirus (COVID-19), courts and law enforcement agencies at every level of Government have taken extraordinary actions:

FEDERAL

  • Attorney General Barr directed all U.S. Attorneys to prioritize the investigation and prosecution of Coronavirus-related fraud schemes, including: the selling of fraudulent cures for coronavirus, phishing emails purporting to be from the World Health Organization or Centers for Disease Control, appeals for donations to fraudulent charities; and misusing the personal information of coronavirus test patients to fraudulently bill for other tests and procedures. The Department of Justice also announced its first enforcement action in that respect, filing wire fraud charges against an Austin, Texas-based business that operated a website offering fraudulent “vaccine kits” for sale.
  • The Department of Justice announced the formation of anti-hoarding task forces within each of the 94 U.S. Attorneys’ Offices to investigate and prosecute price gouging and hoarding in violation of the Defense Production Act and federal criminal statutes. Attorney General Willliam Barr warned, “If you are hoarding a warehouse full of surgical masks, expect to hear a knock on your door.”
  • For more information regarding other federal jurisdictions, see our prior posts. 

STATE OF NEW JERSEY

  • Governor Phil Murphy and Attorney General Gurbir Grewal warned that individuals and businesses that violate the state of emergency restrictions potentially face criminal prosecution. Citing examples of bars and restaurants which continue to allow in-house seating, individuals who host parties and other large gatherings, and price gouging for scarce goods, Grewal warned that violations may range from disorderly persons offenses to second-degree indictable offenses, which carry potential sentences of 5 to 10 years in state prison.
  • On Tuesday, county jails are expected to begin releasing inmates who are currently serving less than one year as a condition of probationary sentences or as a result of municipal court convictions for minor fourth-degree, disorderly persons, and petty disorderly persons offenses, pursuant to a Consent Order entered on Sunday by the New Jersey Supreme Court. The Consent Order also calls inmates convicted in Superior Court of similarly minor offenses to be released on Thursday.

MUNICIPAL COURTS

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