SAN ANTONIO, Texas — A San Antonio man is facing federal charges after claiming in a Facebook post he had paid someone to intentionally spread COVID-19 at area grocery stores, according to federal prosecutors.
Late Tuesday night, 39-year-old Christopher Charles Perez was arrested and charged in a federal criminal complain with one count of hoaxes involving biological agents.
"To be clear, the alleged threat was false; no one spread coronavirus at grocery stores," read a statement from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Texas.
According to a federal complaint, unsealed yesterday, Perez posted the comments on Facebook "because he was trying to deter people from visiting the stores, purportedly in order to prevent the spread of the virus."
Someone took a screenshot of Perez's Facebook comment and alerted authorities via www.tip411.com, according to a 15-page search warrant affidavit obtained by MyTexasDaily.com. That tip was then sent to the Southwest Texas Fusion Center (SWTFC) which alerted the FBI office in San Antonio.
"PSA!! Yo rt GROCERY STOREMERCADO!! My homeboys cousin has covid19 and has licked every thing for past 2 days cause we paid him too...big difference is we told him not to be these [expletive] idiots who record and post online...YOU'VE BEEN WARNED!!! GROCERY STORE on nogalitos next;)" read the screenshot of the Facebook post, according to the affidavit.
The post had been removed at the time a San Antonio Fusion Center officer attempted to locate it on Perez's Facebook Page however, the same officer located a second post on a news article on News4's website referencing an employee at a grocery store being tested positive for COVID-19.
"Lol..I did try to warn y'all but my homegirl changed my mind...mercado already is, nogalitos location next....," read the comment on that news article, according to the affidavit.
Federal agents identified the owner of that Facebook user as Perez and, in an interview with federal agents, admitted to owning the user account and making the post — claiming it was "[expletive] talking."
Perez told investigators he "thought it was stupid for people to be out shopping and he was trying to scare people from the stores in order to stop them from spreading the virus to keep people safe."
The original Facebook comment was up for approximately 16 minutes before it was deleted by Perez. The comment on the news article was up for at least 23 hours.
Perez, if convicted, faces up to five years in federal prison.