SAN ANTONIO (KTSA News) — A federal jury convicted a San Antonio man that is accused of creating a hoax related to COVID-19 on social media last year.
40-year-old Christopher Charles Perez was convicted on two counts of a federal statute that criminalizes false information and hoaxes related to biological weapons.
Perez, also known as “Christopher Robbins,” reportedly created two Facebook posts last April alleging he paid someone infected with COVID-19 to go to a grocery store in order to lick items and spread the infectious virus. The threats were false, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said, according to both an investigation and Perez’s own admissions.
“Our community feels safer when we are free from this type of hoax threat. When Perez posted his threats on-line, his hoax posed a very real risk of spreading panic throughout our community at a time when the public was already facing the difficult challenges of a global pandemic. The jury verdict today affirms that hoax threats such as this merit investigation and prosecution,” said U.S. Attorney Ashley C. Hoff.
Officials said a screenshot of the first post was sent to the Southwest Texas Fusion Center and was forwarded to the San Antonio FBI office for further investigation.
“The verdict in this case sends a clear message that the FBI and our law enforcement partners take threats seriously,” said Special Agent in Charge Christopher Combs of the FBI’s San Antonio Division. “Making threats, even those which are not carried out, poses a significant cost on our community. Law enforcement agencies have limited resources and responding to hoax threats diverts officers and costs taxpayers. Perez’s threats, made during a pandemic, targeting a business making every effort to provide food, medicine and vital necessities to our community, likely added to the fear and confusion during a difficult time.”
Perez faces up to five years in federal prison for each of the two convictions and will be sentenced on September 20.
The FBI’s Joint Terrorism Taskforce and Weapons of Mass Destruction personnel oversaw the investigation.