US biotech executive sentenced to 7 years in jail for COVID test fraud

U.S. Justice Department seal is seen at Justice Department headquarters in Washington

(Reuters) - The chief executive of a U.S. biotechnology company that falsely promised investors it could produce a quick and accurate COVID-19 test was sentenced to seven years' in jail on Friday, the Justice Department said.

Keith Berman, 70, of Westlake Village, California, pleaded guilty last December to securities fraud totaling around $28 million.

The Justice Department said that from February through December 2020, Berman falsely claimed his Decision Diagnostics company had developed a 15-second test to detect COVID-19 in a finger prick sample of blood when, in reality, no such test existed.

"Berman defrauded investors to profit from the pandemic," Nicole Argentieri, head of the Justice Department's criminal division, said in a statement.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission had sued the company and Berman in December 2020.

(Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Leslie Adler)