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Man Charged with Terror Threat for Alleged Coughing Incident

A U.S. resident was charged Tuesday with harassment and making a terroristic threat after the man allegedly coughed on a store employee on purpose and then told the worker that he had the coronavirus.

George Falcone of Freehold, New Jersey, was charged by the New Jersey attorney general with harassment and making terroristic threats for allegedly coughing on a Wegmans supermarket employee in Manalapan, New Jersey.

The female store employee was concerned that Falcone was standing too close to her and an open display of products in the store’s prepared food section, and asked Falcone to take a step back, New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal said in a statement.

Instead, Falcone allegedly stepped forward to within three feet of the employee, leaned toward her, purposely coughed, and then laughed and told her he was infected with the coronavirus. Falcone then told two other employees they were lucky to have jobs, according to Grewal.

A Manalapan Police Department detective working a security detail at the store approached Falcone, who allegedly refused to provide his name or driver’s license. After approximately 40 minutes, Falcone identified himself and was permitted to leave. On Tuesday, Falcone was charged  by complaint-summons with three criminal offenses. They were making terroristic threats (3rd Degree), obstructing administration of law or other governmental Function (4th degree), and harassment (Petty Disorderly Persons Offense), according to Grewal.

“We vow to respond swiftly and strongly whenever someone commits a criminal offense that uses the coronavirus to generate panic or discord,” Grewal said in a statement.

“Exploiting people’s fears and creating panic during a pandemic emergency is reprehensiblem," said New Jersey Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni in a statement. “In times like these, we need to find ways to pull together as a community instead of committing acts that further divide us.” 

Learn more about the coronavirus pandemic and resources for security professionals on the ASIS International Disease Outbreak: Security Resources page.