COVID-19 lie lands man in trouble

COVID-19 lie lands man in trouble

Friday, May 22, 2020

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ATLANTA, United States (AP) — A Georgia man faces charges after authorities say he lied to his employer that he had tested positive for COVID-19.

Santwon Antonio Davis, 34, is charged with defrauding his employer, the US attorney's office in Atlanta said in a news release yesterday. Because Davis said he'd tested positive, his employer had to shut down its plant for sanitising and put several other employees on paid leave while they quarantined, causing the company a loss of more than $100,000, prosecutors said.

He had his initial court appearance yesterday and was granted bail, according to online court records. A telephone number for Davis could not be found, and his lawyer did not immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment.

Prosecutors say Davis has since admitted he didn't have COVID-19.

Davis worked for an unnamed Fortune 500 company with a plant in the Atlanta area, prosecutors said. On March 12 and 13, the company held mandatory training on how employees could access information on its website about COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. Employees were told they would receive paid time off to quarantine if they tested positive.

A week later, Davis got a call at work and told his supervisors his mother, with whom he lived, had been exposed to someone who'd tested positive for COVID-19 and had been told to self-quarantine, according to a sworn statement from an FBI agent filed in court. His supervisor said Davis could continue working because that was a “low risk” exposure, but he checked out early, saying he was worried about his mother.

The next day, Friday, March 20, Davis texted his supervisor to say his mother had developed symptoms overnight and they were waiting for her test results, the agent's statement says. Again, his supervisor said he could work because that was a “low risk” exposure, but Davis didn't show up for work.

Over that weekend, Davis texted his supervisor on Saturday to say his mom had tested positive for COVID-19 and that he had a fever and again on Sunday saying that he'd tested positive, the agent's statement said. That Sunday evening, the supervisor asked Davis to send him a copy of his test results and explained that if Davis had COVID-19 the company would have to shut for cleaning and other employees who'd worked closely with him would have to quarantine.

The company's human resources manager reviewed the medical excuse letter Davis sent and saw some indications of fraud, the FBI agent's statement says. For example, it said he was discharged in November 2019, was unsigned and didn't appear to be on formal letterhead. The company also called the hospital where Davis said he'd been tested and found out that it wasn't doing COVID-19 tests.

After repeated unsuccessful attempts to get Davis to send his test results, the company told him on March 25 that he'd been suspended and would be fired if he didn't send them by 3:00 pm that day, the agent's statement said. Davis never responded or provided test results and was fired.

Relying on what Davis had said, the company closed its plant on March 23 for cleaning and paid salaries of at least four employees while they quarantined because they'd been in close contact with Davis, the agent's statement said.

Davis “caused unnecessary economic loss to his employer and distress to his coworkers and their families”, US Attorney Byung J “BJay” Pak said in a news release, adding that law enforcement will act quickly “to put a stop to criminals preying on Georgia companies and the public with coronavirus-related fraud schemes”.

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