Fake coronavirus testing sites were discovered in multiple locations across Louisville, Kentucky this week, city officials say. One of the scam sites was at Sojourn Church Midtown, where church leaders were contacted by an organization offering drive-thru COVID-19 testing. They agreed to host the site in their parking lot – unbeknownst to them, the testing was illegitimate.
"After we performed an initial screening and researched the organization, and after the organization assured us that they were in communication with Louisville Metro government, we agreed to let them use our parking lot for the dates of Monday, March 30 through Wednesday, April 1," Jack Brannen, the church's director of communications said in a statement.
Brannen said they wanted to make COVID-19 testing available to their neighbors and they promoted the testing location on the church's website. But when the staff of the so-called testing organization showed up, church leaders developed some concern.
The main concern, Brannen said, was their compliance with city and state requirements. "Although it wasn't our event, we felt uncomfortable allowing them to continue to use our parking lot," he said. "Ultimately, we asked them not to return for testing on Wednesday. We have updated our online promotion to reflect the change of plans."
Now, law enforcement in the city is investigating this and several other apparently fraudulent testing sites, the Courier-Journal reports. City officials said they didn't initially known about the sites, and all testing sties must work with the state.
The scam sites are the work of two medical marketing companies, the Courier-Journal reports. One promises results in 24 hours and charges individuals who exhibited symptoms up to $250 per test.
On his Facebook page, Metro Council President David James had an urgent message for Louisville residents" "Please Don't Fall For COVID-19 Testing Scams, Please listen time [Kentucky Governor] Andy Beshear and Mayor Greg Fischer about testing locations," he wrote, sharing a video from Courier-Journal photojournalist Dustin Alton Strupp.
Strupp and his coworker, Matt Stone, captured video at the testing site, which shows people in hazmat suits packing up their medical tent and supplies as James confronts them. "Are you ripping people off?" James asks. He also ripped down the company's sign.
The people in hazmat suits — apparently the fake testers — are seen loading up the truck and driving off as community activists and James continue to shout at them.
Strupp and Stone continued to film as James hopped in his car and followed the fake testers. "It got pretty heated," Stone says as Strupp drives the car. "We're going to try to follow them, because David James took off after them."
James was able to chase them down in the pickup, as Strupp and Stone filmed from their own car. In the video, James said he would follow them wherever they went so he could stop them from taking people's money for "bogus COVID-19 tests."
CBS News has reached out to Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, Metro Council President David James and Louisville Police for more information about the fake testing sites.