Fact check: Claim of sex-trafficking investigation at a Maryland McDonald’s is false

The claim: A McDonald’s in Elkton, Maryland, was permanently shut down due to a sex-trafficking investigation

Viral posts on social media claim a McDonald’s in Elkton, Maryland, was recently shut down due to a sex-trafficking and money-laundering investigation. 

Sex trafficking has become a widely shared topic on social media with many users linking the baseless claims to QAnon, a conspiracy theory alleging a “deep state” apparatus run by liberal politicians and celebrities who are pedophiles. 

The claim targeting a McDonald’s in Maryland originated in an April 26 post from a Facebook page that goes by “Town of Elkton MD.”

“Big news for Cecil county today, Elkton McDonald’s on Pulaski highway located in the big elk shopping center is being permanently shut down as of 4/27/21 due to a S*x trafficking investigation and international money laundering investigation,” the post reads.

The account attributed the claim to a “Town of Elkton public official” and the post has over 1,100 shares and over 200 comments.

Soon after, users shared a screengrab of the post to Facebook crime group pages. In a subsequent post on April 28, the “Town of Elkton MD” account claimed President Joe Biden “is linked to the s*x trafficking scandal at the Elkton McDonald’s.” 

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USA TODAY reached out to the Facebook page and user for comment. 

Police in Elkton said the claim is false.

No evidence of claim

Lt. Lawrence Waldridge with the Elkton Police Department confirmed to Lead Stories that there is no such investigation taking place.

“We have not been advised of that and there has been no investigation of that by our agency,” Waldridge said. He added that the Facebook page spreading the rumor is a fake account. 

The profile image and the Facebook page’s name resemble the Town of Elkton’s official account, tricking users into thinking it is authentic. 

The official Town of Elkton page is defined as a government organization, while the Facebook page sharing the claim writes in its about section: “Perfect town filled with perfect junkies.” 

On April 26, the official Town of Elkton Facebook page wrote that the fake Facebook account is “not sponsored or run by the municipality” and urged users to “beware of what information is on social media.”

Similarly, the Elkton Police Department took to Facebook the same day to point out the “fictitious Town of Elkton MD Facebook page circulating a story regarding the closure of the McDonalds Restaurant located at Routes 213/40.”

A phone call to the McDonald’s in Big Elk Shopping Centre further confirms that the restaurant is open and the restaurant’s website makes no mention of the location being closed. 

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USA TODAY reached out to McDonald’s and the Elkton Police Department for additional comment.

Our rating: False

The claim that a McDonald’s in Elkton has been permanently shut down due to a sex-trafficking and money-laundering investigation is FALSE, based on our research. The Elkton Police Department confirmed there is no such investigation taking place. McDonald’s makes no mention of the location being closed and the rumor started from a fake account claiming to be the town of Elkton’s official page. 

Our fact-check sources: 

  • Lead Stories, April 27, Fact Check: A McDonald’s In Maryland Was NOT Closed Due To A Sex Trafficking Investigation
  • Town of Elkton Facebook page, accessed April 28, About section 
  • Town of Elkton MD, accessed April 28, About section
  • Town of Elkton, April 26, Facebook post
  • Elkton Police Department, April 26, Facebook post
  • McDonald’s, accessed April 28, 101 E Pulaski Hwy

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