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Man Coughed On Manalapan Wegmans Staffer, Said He Had Virus: AG

Patch logo Patch 3/24/2020 Carly Baldwin
a close up of a man: George Falcone, 50, of Freehold, was charged by complaint-summons Tuesday. The incident happened Sunday night at the Manalapan Wegmans. © New Jersey Attorney General's Office George Falcone, 50, of Freehold, was charged by complaint-summons Tuesday. The incident happened Sunday night at the Manalapan Wegmans.

MANALAPAN, NJ — A man was been charged with deliberately coughing on a store employee at the Manalapan Wegmans, and telling the woman that he has the coronavirus, according to the New Jersey's Attorney General's office, which is handling the high-profile case.

George Falcone, 50, of Freehold, was charged Tuesday by complaint-summons with third-degree terroristic threats, harassment (a petty disorderly persons offense) and obstruction.

The incident occurred at about 6:30 p.m. Sunday at the Manalapan Wegmans on Rt. 9. The Wegmans 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. He allegedly laughed and said he was infected with the coronavirus, said the AG's office. 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.

“It sickens me to think an individual would lower their basic human standards during a time of crisis such as we are experiencing," said Manalapan Police Chief Michael Fountain.

The summons were issued Tuesday, which will require Falcone to appear in court at a later date.

Attorney General Gurbir Grewal thanked the Manalapan Police Department and the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office for their strong response to the incident and investigation leading to the charges.

“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.”

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

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