SEATTLE — Johnny Stine, 57, of Redmond, branded himself as a biotech expert. Prosecutors say he used social media to sell what he claimed was a COVID-19 vaccine.
Stine learned his fate in federal court on Tuesday. He was sentenced to five years of probation and $246,986 in restitution.
Special Agent In Charge Robert Hammer oversees Homeland Security Investigations in the Pacific Northwest, and he says Stine traveled to at least five states selling his "vaccine" to customers for between $400 and $1,000 each.
In May of 2020, the FDA issued a warning letter for distributing an unapproved drug. Stine was also sued by Washington State's Attorney General. In June of 2020 entered into a consent decree with the state, agreeing to not market or distribute vaccines.
But Stine kept doing it, according to investigators who also say undercover agents began communicating with him.
"We also have concerning text messages where he believed that one of our undercovers was in charge of a ring of prostitutes and was happy to vaccinate them in exchange for services," said Hammer.
Investigators say messages show Stine writing about where he was giving out the vaccines and the hundreds of requests he was receiving.
Hammer said HSI worked with the Food and Drug Administration - Office of Criminal Investigations on an undercover operation.
"He thought he was going to be injecting an individual in Idaho. It would turn out to be an undercover agent," said Hammer.
According to the U.S. Attorney, Stine made more than $200,000 selling treatments to cancer patients.
Letters of support from people Stine treated in the past are included in the federal court documents. One letter said Stine had a "sincere desire to help people," but investigators say he was profiting off the pandemic.
"This was not a charity event. There were multiple hundreds of thousands of dollars that he collected from individuals," said Hammer.