Men accused of coughing on people, then claiming they have coronavirus

/ CBS/AP

Trenton, New Jersey — Authorities in New Jersey and Pennsylvania say people in both states have been charged with coughing on others in stores and saying they were infected with the coronavirus.

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy said Tuesday that a man is accused of coughing on a Wegmans food store employee at about 6:30 p.m. Sunday in Manalapan, New Jersey and telling the woman he has the coronavirus. Authorities later identified him as 50-year-old George Falcone of Freehold, New Jersey.

Prosecutors say the woman was concerned that Falcone was standing too close to her and an open display of prepared food, so she asked him to step back as she covered the food. Instead, prosecutors allege, he stepped forward, leaned toward her and "purposely coughed," then laughed and said he was infected with the coronavirus.

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Officials said Falcone also allegedly told two other employees they were lucky to have jobs.

Murphy said,"There are knuckleheads out there," reports CBS New York. "We are up and down the state and we will not take any non-compliant behavior, never mind egregious behavior such as this," he said.

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New Jerseyl Governor Phil Murphy at a news briefing on March 24, 2020. CBS New York

Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said the current difficult times call for people to be considerate rather than engaging in "intimidation and spread fear, as alleged in this case."

Prosecutors said terroristic threats, obstruction and harassment charges were filed against Falcone. It's unclear whether he has an attorney.

In Pennsylvania, North Middletown Township police allege that a man deliberately coughed in the face of a recovering pneumonia patient last week and repeatedly claimed he was infected with the coronavirus.

Daniel Tabussi, 57, of Carlisle, Pennsylvania is charged with terroristic threats, simple assault, disorderly conduct and harassment in the incident Friday in a grocery store near Carlisle. Police allege Tabussi approached the older man, who was wearing a medical face mask and gloves because of the potential fatal risk from COVID-19.

Police allege that Tabussi deliberately made coughing sounds near the man, while he smiled and laughed. They allege Tabussi mocked the man for wearing a mask and told him that he was infected with the coronavirus.

A message seeking comment was left by The Associted Presst at Tabussi's home phone.

First published on March 25, 2020 / 5:47 AM

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