Coronavirus News: NJ man arrested after allegedly coughing on Wegmans employee, claims he has COVID-19

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Wednesday, March 25, 2020

MANALAPAN, New Jersey (WABC) -- A man who allegedly coughed on a New Jersey food store employee and told the woman he had coronavirus was charged Tuesday.

The incident happened on Sunday at the Wegmans on US Highway 9 in Manalapan.

George Falcone, 50, of Freehold, was charged by complaint-summons with third-degree terroristic threats, fourth-degree obstructing administration of law or other governmental function and harassment (petty disorderly persons offense).

Officials say the employee was concerned that Falcone was standing too close to her and an open display of prepared foods, so she requested that he step back as she covered the food. Instead, Falcone allegedly stepped forward to within three feet of her, leaned toward her and purposely coughed.

The suspect allegedly laughed and said he was infected with the coronavirus. Falcone subsequently told two other employees they are lucky to have jobs.

A detective of the Manalapan Police Department was working a security detail at the store and approached Falcone, who allegedly refused to cooperate or provide his name or driver's license.

After approximately 40 minutes, Falcone identified himself and was permitted to leave. Following additional investigation, summonses were issued Tuesday, which will require Falcone to appear in court at a later date.

"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," said Attorney General Grewal. "We must do everything we can to deter this type of conduct and any similar conduct that harms others during this emergency. 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."

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy addressed the incident at a news conference Tuesday.

"We will not take any non-compliant behavior, never mind egregious behavior such as this," the governor said.


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