Profiteering pair sentenced for Covid-19 fraudulent test sales

Two men have been sentenced at Birmingham Crown Court, after fraudulently selling unauthorised COVID-19 test kits in 2020 to make huge profits.

As the country entered into lockdown, Ron Huss-Smickler, 41 from Birmingham, and Steven Lawrence Beckford, 39 from Edgbaston, bought thousands of non-certified COVID-19 test kits from ‘Alibaba’ a Chinese shopping website.

The tests were then sold online to customers in the UK, Europe and US through the pair’s business ‘Be Corona Safe’. Customers were misled into believing the tests had been approved by the regulator, however the Medicine and Healthcare products Regulatory Authority (MHRA) had denied the application, due to the tests not performing as they should.

Tests were only intended for professional use say the CPS, with Huss-Smickler and Beckford splitting kits to be passed off as approved for individual use at home.

The CPS says fake instruction pamphlets were created as well as false CE markings to claim that the kits met the European Conformity requirements. This was all in an effort to maximise profits.

Huss-Smickler and Beckford also aimed to evade scrutiny from e-commerce platforms and online banks, who had previously warned them of profiteering and selling medical equipment without verification.

The defendants were arrested in June 2020 by the National Crime Agency before their plan to make huge profits could be realised. 

Huss-Smickler was sentenced to 18 months in jail and Beckford received a four months sentence, suspended for two years. Both men have also been disqualified from acting as a company director.

Sarah Melo, specialist prosecutor from the CPS said: “The defendants quickly spotted an opportunity in the early stages of the pandemic, which was in reality an attempt to capitalise on the fears of the general public amid a global crisis.

“They carried on their business aware that what they were doing was wrong, and their stated intention was to make huge profits.

“There was no evidence that the test kits worked when used in the way they were advertised, but this did not deter them selling them without any regard to the welfare of their customers.

“We work closely with investigators such as the MHRA and the NCA and will not hesitate to prosecute where there is evidence of fraud.”