A total of 192,000 N95 respirator masks and other personal protective equipment seized from a black market dealer busted by the FBI is being sent to the front lines of the fight against the coronavirus in New Jersey and New York, federal authorities announced Thursday.
The distributed equipment also includes 130,000 surgical masks, procedure masks, N100 masks, surgical gowns, disinfectant towels, particulate filters, bottles of hand sanitizer, and bottles of spray disinfectant, they said.
The equipment was seized from Baruch Feldheim, 43, who federal authorities said had enough black market medical supplies stashed at his Brooklyn home and elsewhere to “outfit an entire hospital.”
Feldheim violated an executive order issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services last week that makes it illegal to hoard certain scarce health and medical resources, U.S. Attorney for New Jersey Craig Carpenito said.
He also deliberately coughed on investigating FBI agents and told them he had the coronavirus, Carpenito said.
The HHS “used its authority under the Defense Production Act (DPA) to order that the supplies be immediately furnished to the United States,” the Justice Department said in a release.
"If you are amassing critical medical equipment for the purpose of selling it at exorbitant prices, you can expect a knock at your door," U.S. Attorney General William P. Barr said. "The Department of Justice's COVID-19 Hoarding and Price Gouging Task Force is working tirelessly around the clock with all our law enforcement partners to ensure that bad actors cannot illicitly profit from the COVID-19 pandemic facing our nation."
HHS will pay the owner of the hoarded equipment pre-COVID-19 fair market value for the supplies, Barr added.
After inspecting the supplies, HHS arranged for the delivery of the PPE to the New Jersey Department of Health, the New York State Department of Health and the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
Distribution of the equipment to healthcare workers in New York and New Jersey has already begun, authorities said.
Feldheim sold equipment to doctors and nurses at inflated prices, the FBI charged. When he was caught, he purposely coughed on the agents, claiming he had COVID-19, they said.
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