Authorities did not identify the business by name but described it as a Fortune 500 company with a facility in the Atlanta area. They said Davis has since admitted that he did not have covid-19.
The alleged fraud cost the business more than $100,000 and required at least four employees who worked closely with Davis to self-quarantine, according to prosecutors.
“The defendant caused unnecessary economic loss to his employer and distress to his co-workers and their families,” U.S. Attorney Byung J. Pak said in a statement.
Davis, who has prior felony convictions, was released on a $15,000 bond, court records show. A public defender representing him did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday.
The allegations highlight the steps authorities are taking to investigate potential fraud related to the pandemic. With workers and businesses facing deepening financial fallout from months of coronavirus restrictions, the FBI warned the private sector in an April report to watch for employees faking test results to get out of work. The previous month, Attorney General William P. Barr instructed prosecutors across the country to crack down on a variety of scams from people seeking to take advantage of the public health crisis for their own gain.
According to an FBI affidavit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, Davis was at work in mid-March when he received a call informing him that his mother had been exposed to the coronavirus and needed to self-quarantine. Davis, who lived with his mother, was considered at low-risk of exposure and was allowed to return to work.
But on March 21, Davis told his supervisor that he had developed symptoms and did not show up at the plant, according to the affidavit. The next day, court papers say, he texted his boss saying he had tested positive.
He later allegedly sent an email with a medical excuse letter indicating he had been admitted to Wellstar Atlanta Medical Center Hospital South and was told to quarantine for 14 days. According to the FBI, his bosses grew suspicious when they noticed that letter did not include test results, was not printed on official letterhead, and contained a line saying Davis had been discharged in November 2019.
Davis continued to lie about his condition in exchanges with his superiors over the following days, according to the affidavit. Eventually, he stopped responding to messages.
“In reliance on Davis’s representations and in an attempt to protect its employees and the public from the serious public health crisis, the Company closed the Plant on Monday, March 23, 2020, for a thorough cleaning,” FBI special agent Jae S. Park wrote in the affidavit. “The Company also paid the salaries of at least four employees who were required to quarantine themselves because they had been in close contact with Davis.”
The allegations are almost identical to an incident described in the FBI’s April report warning companies about employees falsifying test results. In that incident, according to CNN, the bureau noted that one of the alleged scammer’s co-workers, believing they had been exposed, paid for a rental property where they could self-quarantine away from their family.