Carson officials demand wider FBI probe after coronavirus social media hoax

CARSON, Calif. (KABC) -- Carson officials on Monday demanded a wider FBI probe to quell alarm over a fake social media post about the coronavirus.

"When we got this information via social media, it had over 5,000 shares. It had put the city in a panic," says Carson Councilmember Jawane Hilton.

Calls came in from first responders, as well as schools asking if they should close.

Some of the busiest stores in Carson were listed in the post, including Seafood City, which reports losses of 30 to 40% over the weekend because of the scare.

"Actually almost 70% of the community comes to this store. They shop here almost three times a week," says manager Jules Torres.

The false message prominently displayed logos from major health organizations and replicated the signature of an L.A. County Health official.

"This is not a joke. Public health is not a joke and causing fear in the community is not a joke," said Congressmember Nanette Diaz-Barragan, who called for the federal probe in tandem with the L.A. County Sheriff's Department.

Officials are now urging anyone who shared the false post to delete it and share the corrected information.

There is no report of coronavirus in Carson.

Carson Mayor Albert Robles suspects a racial motive behind the scam

"Carson being 25% Asian, I think the perpetrators targeted our community," Robles said.

Officials say the city's response was hampered because the message was posted on a local holiday in honor of Fred Kurematsu, a World War II Japanese American activist who was imprisoned for refusing to go to an internment camp.

The manager of Seafood City is imploring shoppers to come back.

"Please come in. It is safe. It is OK," says Torres.
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