A Freehold man who got too close to a Wegmans employee coughed on her when she expressed concern and told her he had the coronavirus, leading to criminal charges, authorities said.
The worker expressed a genuine concern that George Falcone, 50, was standing too close to her and an open display of prepared foods at the Wegmans on Route 9 in Manalapan, state Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal said Tuesday.
She asked him to step back as she covered the food, but Falcone got closer, leaned over and purposely coughed, Grewal said.
Then he “laughed and said he was infected with the coronavirus,” the attorney general said.
Falcone also told two other employees they are “lucky to have jobs.” Grewal added.
Turns out a Manalapan police detective was working security at the store and approached Falcone, who refused provide his name or driver’s license, the attorney general said.
It took 40 minutes before Falcone finally identified himself and was allowed to leave, he added.
Summonses were issued Tuesday charging Falcone with making terroristic threats, obstruction and harassment.
Anyone else who wants to pull a similar stunt will find themselves charged, as well, Grewal warned.
“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,” the attorney general said.
“We must do everything we can to deter this type of conduct and any similar conduct that harms others during this emergency,” he added. “Just as we are cracking down on bias offenses and those who use the pandemic to fuel hatred and prejudice, we vow to respond swiftly and strongly whenever someone commits a criminal offense that uses the coronavirus to generate panic or discord.”
“It sickens me to think an individual would lower their basic human standards during a time of crisis such as we are experiencing,” Manalapan Police Chief Michael Fountain said.
“Exploiting people’s fears and creating panic during a pandemic emergency is reprehensible,” Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni added. “In times like these, we need to find ways to pull together as a community instead of committing acts that further divide us.”
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