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An actor and bodybuilder from Los Angeles has gained the fame he's chased for years: He's the first person in the U.S. to be charged with a federal crime for peddling a fake cure for COVID-19 while promising big returns to his investors, authorities say.
Keith L. Middlebrook, 52, who played parts in Iron Man 2, Iron Man 3 and Thor, and has amassed millions of followers on social media, is behind bars and charged with attempted wire fraud. He is due back in court May 22.
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Hollywood screenwriters would be hard-pressed to concoct the allegations that have Middlebrook now facing up to 20 years in federal prison on a charge of attempted wire fraud.
With about 2.4 million Instagram followers, Middlebrook spun a web of lies and boastfully hawked a cure for the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus, according to details in a 20-page sworn affidavit from an FBI special agent.
No approved treatment currently exists for COVID-19.
NBA legend's name stolen to advance scam
The FBI affidavit says Middlebrook even claimed that former L.A. Lakers basketball star Earvin “Magic” Johnson was one of his investors. But that wasn't true, according to the president of Magic Johnson Enterprises. And when the retired NBA player was shown a driver's license photo of Middlebrook, Johnson said that he had never met, spoken to or seen Middlebrook before, authorities say.