I-TEAM: More suspects caught lying about having COVID-19 to avoid going to jail

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The FOX 8 I-TEAM has found more suspects in crimes lying about having COVID-19 to avoid going to jail, and one man just got hit with federal charges for it.

The I-TEAM first exposed this happening months ago. Suspects accused of attempting to avoid jail by using the threat of COVID-19 as a weapon.

Now some of those cases are moving through court with one now in federal court.

And even with it, more cases are coming to light.

In fact, police radio tapes obtained by FOX 8 reveal what happened with a man getting arrested on an outstanding assault warrant.

A dispatcher from one police agency said, “My officers told him you were gonna come pick him up, and he’s now claiming he has the coronavirus.” A dispatcher from Cleveland responded, “Of course, he does…”

Meantime, federal charges have just been filed against Walter Poindexter.

Back in April, the I-TEAM revealed he got arrested after trouble on an RTA bus. Then he go indicted by a Cuyahoga County grand jury for spitting at paramedics and police while claiming he had the coronavirus. But, now, the US Attorney’s office in Cleveland is pressing federal charges for “false information and hoaxes.”

Assistant US Attorney Om Kakani said the federal charges were filed, in part, since the crimes involved RTA and MetroHealth Medical Center, and they both receive federal funding. Plus, the US Attorney’s office also wants to send a message about protecting people paid to protect you.

Om Kakani said, “If you re going to be causing them pain when they’re already putting themselves out there in harm’s way, that is something that the US Attorney’s office and the FBI are going to want to put an end to…”

So what about other cases? Charges have not been filed for every false claim about COVID 19. Meantime, the I-TEAM found one man at the Justice Center plead guilty to  county charges for inducing panic. For that, and a theft charge.

Johnny Garcia ended up back on the street on probation.

Police video from Garcia’s case shows, right away, officers called him out when he said, “I got the corona.”

An officer asked if he was really sick, “Or, are you trying to do a jail-it is call here? Yeah trying to get out of jail.”

In the latest case, officers got ready to pick up the suspect even after his COVID claim. But,  paramedics got involved first to try to figure out if the man needed to go to a hospital.

In Poindexter’s case, the first charges he faced will be dropped now that he’s been indicted federally.

For police on the street, fake COVID-19 claims have become one more threat to be taken seriously.

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