Officials Seize Nearly One Million Medical Masks And Gloves Hoarded By Price Gougers
Nearly a million medical masks and gloves seized from a ‘hoarder’ by the FBI are to be redistributed to frontline healthcare workers in New York and New Jersey.
The US Department of Justice (DOJ) and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) confirmed the haul of personal protective equipment (PPE) yesterday, April 2.
This followed a March 30 operation by the FBI’s COVID-19 Hoarding and Price Gouging Task Force, which alerted HHS to the load and immediately ordered it be re-purposed under the Defense Production Act (DPA).
The haul, which will be donated to New York and New Jersey healthcare departments to help continue tackling the outbreak, included 598,000 medical grade gloves, 192,000 N95 respirator masks, 130,000 surgical masks, surgical gowns, disinfectant towels, particulate filters and bottles of hand sanitiser and spray disinfectant.
Alex Azar, HHS Sceretary, said in a statement:
Cracking down on the hoarding of vital supplies allows us to distribute this material to the heroic healthcare workers on the frontlines who are most in need. Thanks to the quick work of the White House, the Department of Justice, and HHS, the seized resources were distributed in days to the doctors, nurses and first responders who need them.
No details have been released regarding the identity of the price gouger, nor the location in which the supplies were found. However, HHS is set to pay the owner of the hoarded equipment following the seizure at ‘pre-COVID-19 fair market value’.
Across the US, there have been more than 257,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus (globally, the number has passed one million). In an effort to crack down on those capitalising on the pandemic, Peter Navarro, DPA Policy Coordinator, says this is the ‘first of many such investigations that are underway’.
Our FBI agents and other law enforcement agencies are tracking down every tip and lead they get, and are devoting massive federal resources to this effort. All individuals and companies hoarding any of these critical supplies, or selling them at well above market prices, are hereby warned they should turn them over to local authorities or the federal government now or risk prompt seizure by the federal government.
Attorney General William P. Barr echoed his sentiments, warning ‘if you are amassing critical medical equipment for the purpose of selling it at exorbitant prices, you can expect a knock at your door’.
This comes shortly after a Brooklyn man was arrested for assaulting a federal officer (he also coughed in the FBI’s direction without covering his mouth, claiming to have coronavirus) and lying regarding his large accumulation of and profiteering from medical supplies.
Baruch Feldheim, 43, was accused of selling 1,000 N95 masks to a doctor for $12,000 – an alleged markup of nearly 700%. However, he ‘categorically denies these charges’.
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