Man who allegedly coughed on Wegmans worker and said he had coronavirus charged with terroristic threat

 

A New Jersey man who allegedly coughed on a Wegmans employee and said he had coronavirus was charged Tuesday with a terroristic threat, among other charges, officials said.

George Falcone, 50, from Freehold, N.J., was charged with terroristic threats, obstructing administration of law or other governmental function and harassment after the incident occurred Sunday, New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal (D) said in a statement. 

On Sunday, a Wegmans employee reportedly asked Falcone to step back after he was “standing too close to her” and an open display of prepared food. She covered her food while asking him, according to the attorney general's office.

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Falcone allegedly leaned forward within three feet of her and purposefully coughed, while laughing and saying he was infected with the virus. He also allegedly told two employees they were “lucky to have jobs.”

A Manalapan Police Department detective who was working a security detail at the store approached Falcone. The man reportedly did not cooperate with police until after about 40 minutes when he provided his name, according to the attorney general's office. 

Falcone will appear in court “at a later date,” according to the statement. He could face up to seven years in prison and up to a $26,000 fine. His defense attorney is undetermined.

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

New Jersey is one of several states that have issued a stay-at-home order, only permitting people to leave for specific reasons like to obtain essential groceries or for medical reasons. Residents are also instructed to stay at least six feet away from one another. 

The Department of Justice's deputy attorney general sent a memo Tuesday saying that people can face federal terrorism charges for "purposeful exposure and infection."

New Jersey has recorded 3,675 positive cases in the state, causing 44 deaths, according to the state health department.