BALTIMORE, MD—The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland has seized “http://pharmacywalmart.com” and “https://stromectol-ivermectin.com” which on June 16, 2021 resolved to “https://en.pharmacywalmart.com/buy-stromectol-usa.html.” The websites contained numerous uses of the legitimate Walmart trademarked logo and appears to attempt to mimic a legitimate Walmart website.
The fraudulent websites allegedly offers for sale a number of drugs for the experimental and unapproved treatment or prevention of COVID-19. Instead, the domains were allegedly used to collect the personal information of individuals visiting the sites in order to use the information for nefarious purposes, including fraud, phishing attacks, and/or deployment of malware. Individuals visiting the sites will now see a message that the site has been seized by the federal government and be redirected to another site for additional information. These are the 12th and 13th COVID fraud related domain name seized by the Maryland U.S. Attorney’s Office and HSI.
The seizure of the domains name was announced by Acting United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Jonathan F. Lenzner and Special Agent in Charge James R. Mancuso of Homeland Security Investigations – Baltimore.
According to the affidavit filed in support of the seizure, the HSI Intellectual Property Rights Center (“IPRC”) and the HSI Cyber Crimes Center (“C3”) discovered an apparent fraudulent website, named “https://stromectol-ivermectin.com” which resolved to an internal webpage of “pharmacywalmart.com.” A domain analysis conducted by HSI indicated that pharmacywalmart.com was created on November 4, 2019, from a registrant located in Russia.
The HSI Cyber Operations Officer (COO) noted the phone number “+1-718-475-90-88” on the pharmacywalmart.com website. While the location for the area code for this number is New York City, the format provided does not match that of a typical United States based phone number. Pharmacywalmart.com purports to offer for sale a number of drugs, including Stromectol (Ivermectin), Aralen (Chloroquine) and Kaletra (Lopinavir and Ritonavir), for the experimental and unapproved treatment or prevention of COVID-19.
As detailed in the affidavit filed in support of the seizure, Stromectol is the brand name of Ivermectin which is a prescription medication used to treat certain parasitic infections; Aralen is a brand name for chloroquine, most commonly used for the treatment and prevention of malaria; and Kaletra is the brand name of a combination of Lopinavir and Ritonavir which are prescription medications that are approved to treat human immunodeficiency virus 1 (HIV-1). None of those drugs are an approved preventative or treatment for COVID-19. On the page offering Kaletra for sale, the subject domain name contained the following: “In 2020, after laboratory researches, it was found out that Kaletra shows positive results in a blockage of a COVID-19 viral replication.” The affidavit alleges that this statement is not supported by trials or the FDA.
Neither domain name is authorized by Walmart to use their intellectual property or offer their products for sale. By seizing the sites, the government has prevented third parties from acquiring the names and using it to commit additional crimes, as well as prevented third parties from continuing to access the sites in their present form.
On May 17, 2021, the Attorney General established the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force to marshal the resources of the Department of Justice in partnership with agencies across government to enhance efforts to combat and prevent pandemic-related fraud. The Task Force bolsters efforts to investigate and prosecute the most culpable domestic and international criminal actors and assists agencies tasked with administering relief programs to prevent fraud by, among other methods, augmenting and incorporating existing coordination mechanisms, identifying resources and techniques to uncover fraudulent actors and their schemes, and sharing and harnessing information and insights gained from prior enforcement efforts. For more information on the Department’s response to the pandemic, please visit https://www.justice.gov/coronavirus.
Anyone with information about allegations of attempted fraud involving COVID-19 can report it by calling the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) Hotline at 866-720-5721 or via the NCDF Web Complaint Form at: https://www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.