A self-described biotech executive who allegedly promoted and administered his own unproven COVID vaccine for as much as $1,000 has been arrested in Washington state.
Johnny Stine, a 55-year-old from Redmond, was charged on accusations that he introduced misbranded drugs into interstate commerce, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Washington said in a January 21 press release. At one point, he allegedly offered the unproven vaccine in exchange for “sexual contact,” according to a complaint filed in federal court last week.
Just as the pandemic was taking off last March, Stine, who says he’s the founder and president of a company called North Coast Biologics, posted a lengthy message on Facebook saying he’d created a vaccine, was immune himself, and was offering it to “people who simply feel that they need it because of increased risk or simply because it would make them comfortable,” according to the complaint.
Stine, who also claims to have created vaccines that attack cancer tumors, said he could take orders for his COVID vaccine at $400 per person, and that the money he made would go to “funding the tumor vaccine protocols of the 85% of the cancer patients that I see.” He further alleged he was treating those patients for free since they were hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt and homeless by the time they found him, according to a screenshot preserved by the Washington attorney general’s office.
“I can no longer stay silent. No government or corporation is ever going to protect us. We are the ones who have to look out for each other,” Stine wrote in the Facebook post. He said in social media posts that the unproven COVID-19 vaccine had taken him half a day to design, according to the Washington attorney general’s office.
The Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Criminal Investigations started a probe into Stine on March 12, 2020, according to a complaint filed in federal court last week. The agency had received a complaint that Stine posted to LinkedIn “that he had manufactured a Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccine, and was offering to supply and administer the vaccine to those who contacted him in Washington state and surrounding areas.”
“The very idea that someone would prey upon fearful people seeking a COVID vaccine in the midst of a global pandemic is not only despicable, but potentially deadly behavior. Equally appalling is the exploitation of vulnerable cancer patients and their families, desperate for treatment,” Special Agent in Charge Robert Hammer, who oversees Homeland Security Investigations operations in the Pacific Northwest, said in a press release last week. “Snake oil salesmen, such as this, who endanger consumers should take this arrest as a stern warning.”
Stine allegedly “vaccinated” a person who was hospitalized with COVID-19 this year and offered to vaccinate a small-town Washington mayor in April, to the shock of some residents. (He never wound up coming to town, Friday Harbor Mayor Farhad Ghatan said in an email to VICE News.) In one April meeting, Stine also told an undercover special agent and Seattle police officer that he’d “vaccinated breastfeeding moms.”
On April 27, an undercover agent received a message from Stine’s phone number that said, “I’m in Tucson killing viruses.”
“MT, ID, TX, NM, UT, AZ…..trying to get home and hit LA, SF, and NV on the way back. Just got news that my lovely ovarian cancer patient with stage 4 tumors that her tumors are shrinking!!!!!!! OMFG! I love personalized tumor vaccines!!!!! Someday I’ll have time to celebrate,” the message said.
Washington’s attorney general hit Stine’s company with a cease-and-desist letter in April, then a lawsuit in June that accused him of vaccinating about 30 people. North Coast Biologics also got a warning letter from the FDA in May.
“Mr. Stine sold this so-called ‘vaccine’ to people in Washington who are frightened and more apt to look for a miracle cure in the midst of a worldwide pandemic,” Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson said in a statement June 12. “This is not only morally wrong — it’s illegal.”
Stine signed a consent decree with the Washington attorney general’s office in June and agreed to not sell or promote the vaccine anymore, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Washington—yet he traveled to Idaho to vaccinate an undercover agent in August. Stine would give the undercover agent the vaccine, and “would use methamphetamine provided by” the undercover agent, according to the complaint.
While there, he was met with agents who seized a vial from his car and his cellphone. In statements to agents, he estimated he’d given the vaccine to 50 to 100 people, and indicated that he’d vaccinated people even after signing the consent decree. By that point, he was charging $1,000 for the vaccine, according to the complaint.
That vial is still undergoing testing in an FDA lab, according to the complaint. After agents seized his phone, they observed an August 2020 text in which he “offered to provide his so-called COVID-19 vaccination to a female in Yakima, Washington,” according to the complaint filed last week.
“STINE stated that he would vaccinate this individual in exchange for the female allowing STINE to have sexual contact with her,” the complaint alleges.
According to one man he vaccinated in Montana, who spoke to the New York Times anonymously, the vaccine allowed him and his family to return to “normal behavior.” A molecular biologist for whom Stine worked in the 1990s also told the Times that Stine’s published work for the company years ago was sound, although Stine was often in a “hurry to publish his work and advance his career.” The former coworker said that he didn’t believe Stine was a scam artist, but that it wasn’t possible for them to create a viable vaccine.
Stine did not immediately return VICE News’ request for comment. Stine’s attorney, a federal public defender, declined to comment, but said Stine would appear in court Thursday morning.