Tom Dreisbach

Just as the coronavirus pandemic began its rapid and deadly spread across the United States, a well-known doctor named Dominique Fradin-Read told thousands of viewers tuning into an Instagram Live video that she had an answer: "one of the best ways to prevent and fight COVID-19."

Whether the coronavirus vaccine developed by Moderna succeeds or not, executives at the small biotech company have already made tens of millions of dollars by cashing in their stock. An NPR examination of official company disclosures has revealed additional irregularities and potential warning signs.

"On a scale of one to 10, one being less concerned and 10 being the most concerned," said Daniel Taylor, an associate professor of accounting at the Wharton School, "this is an 11."

Jack Brewer, a member of Black Voices for Trump who is scheduled to speak at the Republican National Convention on Wednesday, was charged with insider trading by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission earlier this month.

Louis DeJoy, depending on whom you talk to, is either a Republican political operative beholden to President Trump, or a savvy businessman who's the right person to fix what's broken at the U.S. Postal Service. When senators question him this week, they will want to know which narrative is closer to the truth — and whether he is suited to head the service at this time.

The government agency responsible for policing Wall Street brought the fewest number of insider trading cases in decades, according to the most recent available data.

That decline came just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. The Securities and Exchange Commission now warns that the pandemic has created wild swings in the market and more opportunities for insider trading.

NPR reviewed data from the 1980s through last year and found that under the Trump administration, the SEC brought just 32 insider trading enforcement actions in 2019, the lowest number since 1996.

The federal government has repeatedly warned Americans about scammers trying to sell dietary supplements as a remedy for COVID-19 when medical experts say supplements are neither safe nor effective for treating the disease.

But if consumers type "coronavirus supplement" or "COVID supplement" into the search bar at Amazon.com, not only does the online retailer auto-complete the search, it serves up pages and pages of supplements without any warning about the scientific evidence.

Dr. Lauren Jenkins says her medical training has always taught her to think of the worst-case scenario. And one day this past March, that's exactly where her mind went.

It was early into the coronavirus pandemic. Jenkins, a 37-year-old obstetrician-gynecologist who practices at a hospital in Philadelphia, was cooking for her husband and their nearly three-year-old twins, Pierce and Ashton.

That's when she got a call from a colleague. An anesthesiologist she had worked with during a long surgery about one week earlier had tested positive for the coronavirus.

The city attorney of Los Angeles announced Wednesday that his office is suing Wellness Matrix Group for allegedly engaging in a "fraudulent scheme" related to the COVID-19 pandemic that was both "sophisticated" and "wide ranging."

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

In late March, the California company RootMD started advertising "at-home Covid-19 exposure and immunity tests" for consumers worried about the coronavirus. For $249, the company said it would mail out a test kit — including a "lancet" that buyers could use to prick their finger and collect a blood sample. Then, the company promised, consumers could mail that sample back to "certified MD immunologists" to test for antibodies to the coronavirus, and get results within 48 hours.

The kind of financial schemes depicted in movies like The Wolf Of Wall Street and Boiler Room never went away, and Wall Street's top cops are warning investors that the coronavirus has only created new opportunities for that type of financial fraud.

In response, the Securities And Exchange Commission has "substantially accelerated" its pace of enforcement related to the pandemic, says Stephanie Avakian, who co-directs the SEC's enforcement division.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has temporarily suspended trading of shares of Wellness Matrix Group, citing statements "made through affiliated websites and a company consultant about selling at-home COVID-19 testing kits that had been approved by the FDA."

The suspension lasts until April 22.

Mike Feuer, the city attorney of Los Angeles, announced on Monday that his office had "filed a civil law enforcement action against, and achieved an immediate settlement with," a company that had been "illegally selling" an at-home test for the coronavirus.

With government authorities warning an anxious public about scams related to the coronavirus, a California company is facing scrutiny by members of Congress and the city attorney of Los Angeles for selling COVID-19 test kits that it claimed can be used "in the home or at the bedside."

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

It was the middle of a sunny day on Jan. 14, and hundreds of students and staff were on the playground of an elementary school in Los Angeles when a school employee called 911 to report a bizarre emergency on his campus.

"It was actually raining airline fuel onto my campus," the school employee said.

When a government expert in mental health visited one of the largest immigration detention centers in the U.S. in 2017, she knew the conditions that detainees there sometimes face. A past inspection had found that staff often failed to obtain adequate mental health histories, leading to faulty diagnoses and, in some cases, treatment plans that were incorrect.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Even from the beginning, Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump had a complicated relationship.

In 1989, McConnell was running for reelection to the Senate. As he once told a Senate committee, the reason he and other lawmakers spent much of their time fundraising was because "we like to win."

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., says one of his "highest priorities" is to take on the leading cause of preventable death in the United States: smoking.

McConnell has sponsored a bill, along with Virginia Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine, that would increase the tobacco purchase age from 18 to 21.

Scott Pruitt, the current head of the Environmental Protection Agency, first came to national prominence back when he was Oklahoma's attorney general. In that role, he sued the agency he now runs 14 times, in a series of court cases alleging overreach by the federal government.

Ever since Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller unveiled charges against George Papadopoulos, a former foreign policy adviser to the Trump 2016 presidential campaign, the White House has insisted Papadopoulos played an unimportant role in the campaign.

If there's one constant throughout Steve Bannon's career, it's his ability to reinvent himself. His resume includes time in the U.S. Navy plus jobs working with Goldman Sachs; Biosphere 2; a Florida maker of nasal sprays; and a Hong Kong company that employed real people to earn virtual gold in the online video game World Of Warcraft.

Updated on Oct. 20 at 4:04 p.m. ET

Throughout his presidential campaign and since, President Trump has made bold assertions about his charitable giving. But as the Washington Post has thoroughly documented, those boasts of philanthropy don't always stand up to scrutiny.

Editor's Note: This story includes language that may be offensive to some readers.

When Donald Trump arrived in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., in 2002, he was welcomed as a "white knight," says former City Councilman Tom Long.

Trump bought a golf course there that had gone bankrupt after the 18th hole literally fell into the ocean in a landslide.

Long, a Democrat, says residents looked forward to Trump's promises of repairing the course and generating revenue and attention for the city.

Despite that goodwill, the relationship got off to a rough start.

An advisory panel convened by the Food and Drug Administration to evaluate the health risks of the powerful opioid painkiller Opana ER says that the danger it poses as a drug of abuse outweighs its benefits as a prescription painkiller.

The time-release opioid was reformulated in 2012 to make it harder to crush. The goal was to reduce abuse by snorting it. But users quickly figured out that the new formulation could be dissolved and injected.

When Kevin Polly first started abusing Opana ER, a potent prescription opioid painkiller, he took pills — or fractions of pills — and crushed them into a fine powder, then snorted it.

When Opana pills are swallowed, they release their painkilling ingredient over 12 hours. If the pills were crushed and snorted, though, the drug was released in a single dose.

"Just think about it," Polly says, "12 hours of medicine, and, 'BAM!' you're getting it all at once."

The message from park rangers, amateur metal detectors and regular fisherman at California's Lake Perris is unanimous: The water is lower than they've ever seen it.