In separate incidents within a few days of each other, one man in New Jersey and another in Pennsylvania have been accused of deliberately coughing on people in grocery stores and telling them they have coronavirus, CBS News reports.
In New Jersey, authorities allege that at about 6:30 p.m. on Sunday evening, George Falcone went to a Wegmans in Manalapan. There, he allegedly took exception to a grocery store clerk who told him that he was standing too close to her and asked him to step back.
Falcone instead allegedly coughed on the woman and laughed, telling her he had coronavirus. He also allegedly told two other employees that they were “lucky to have jobs.”
Suspect charged w coughing on Manalapan Wegman’s employee and saying he had #Coronavirus ID: 50yo George Falcone/Freehold. Alleged dispute w worker who asked for social distancing. Charges: terroristic threat, harassment & obstruction @MonCoProsecutor @NewJerseyOAG @NBCNewYork pic.twitter.com/xfo1pNDk9Z
— Brian Thompson (@brian4NY) March 24, 2020
He’s reportedly been charged with making terroristic threats in the third degree as well as harassment and obstructing the administration of justice. The terrorism charge carries a maximum sentence of three to five years in prison, while the harassment charge carries a maximum penalty of up to six months. The obstruction charge carries a penalty of up to 18 months. If given the maximum sentence on each count, and if ordered to serve those sentences collectively, he could be looking at five to seven years behind bars.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy didn’t mince words about this incident.
“There are knuckleheads out there. We are up and down the state and we will not take any non-compliant behavior, never mind egregious behavior such as this,” he said.
New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal called on residents of the Garden State to have some compassion.
“These are extremely difficult times in which all of us are called upon to be considerate of each other — not to engage in intimidation and spread fear, as alleged in this case,” he said, via New York Post.
It was the second time in a few days that someone has been accused of such a crime at a grocery store. Days earlier, in Pennsylvania, prosecutors allege that Daniel Tabussi, 57, went to a grocery store during a time period set aside for senior citizens so they can shop without other customers around who might possibly expose them to the coronavirus.
An elderly customer, who was wearing a face mask, claims that Tabussi walked up to him and made fun of him for wearing the mask. Tabussi then allegedly made coughing sounds and told the victim he (Tabussi) had coronavirus, according to Harrisburg’s WHTM-TV.
Tabussi has been charged with making terroristic threats, simple assault by physical menace, disorderly conduct, and harassment.