New York – Governor Kathy Hochul today signed Assemblywoman Nily Rozic and Senator Zellnor Y. Myrie's "COVID-19 Fraud Accountability Act" into law. This legislation sharply increases civil financial penalties for white-collar crime committed in connection with COVID-19 or other future disruptions of the normal marketplace.
"During times of crisis, consumers are at higher risk of being scammed and defrauded,” said Assemblywoman Rozic, Chair of the Assembly Committee on Consumer Protection. “This new law will ensure those who take advantage of New Yorkers at the times they are most vulnerable will be penalized heavily. Thank you to Governor Hochul for signing this important piece of legislation."
"These past few years have been very challenging, not least because of pandemic-related frauds and scams perpetrated on innocent New Yorkers," said Senator Myrie. "Our new law sends a strong message: if you take advantage of people during difficult times, we will take strong civil action against you. I'm very grateful to Governor Hochul for signing this bill, and to my co-sponsor Assembly Member Rozic for getting this bill signed into law."
The new law increases civil financial penalties for white-collar crime committed in connection with COVID-19. The legislation defines “fraud in connection with an abnormal disruption of the market” in the General Business Law and would increase penalties for white-collar crimes arising from the unique circumstances caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as future emergencies and market abnormalities defined by law. The new penalties would be increased to three times the amount of any unlawful gain (or $25,000, whichever is greater).
The Federal Trade Commission estimates that New Yorkers have lost over $80 million to pandemic-related fraud since 2020. Earlier this year, the New York State Attorney General documented one COVID testing company falsely promising results in 48 hours but taking twice as long to deliver, and another guaranteeing 24-hour results that have taken more than five days. The Attorney General has also documented complaints of $14 or $25 COVID test kits being illegally sold for double or triple that amount.
"We are sending a clear message: New York has zero tolerance for fraud, especially in our most critical times of need," Governor Hochul said. "These new laws will protect New Yorkers and incentivize them to report fraud and assist with recovery efforts while cracking down on bad actors and their deceitful attempts to turn a profit during emergencies."
Attorney General Letitia James said, "During the height of the pandemic, New Yorkers were deceived by fraudsters trying to take advantage of difficult times. My office has taken significant action to stop scams, combat price gouging of essential goods, and recover millions of dollars for consumers who were misled. This new law will strengthen our ability to go after those trying to take advantage of New Yorkers. I applaud Governor Hochul, Senator Myrie, and Assemblymember Rozic for taking this important step to protect New Yorkers."
New York Secretary of State Robert J. Rodriguez said, "Protecting New Yorkers against fraud and unscrupulous actors, especially during emergencies when residents are at their most vulnerable, is a top priority of our Division of Consumer Protection and New York State. I thank Governor Hochul for signing these important bills into law and for her continued commitment to New York's consumers."