The Justice Department (DOJ) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced on Thursday that medical supplies, more than half a million of them, including N95 respirator masks, were seized from a price gouger have been distributed to healthcare workers combating the CCP virus.
The supplies were discovered by the FBI during an enforcement operation on March 30, the department said. They include about 192,000 N95 respirator masks, 598,000 medical grade gloves, and 130,000 surgical masks, procedure masks, N100 masks, surgical gowns, disinfectant towels, particulate filters, bottles of hand sanitizer, and bottles of spray disinfectant.
HHS used its power under the Defense Production Act to order that the supplies be immediately given to the federal government. The owner of the hoarded supplies will be paid pre-pandemic fair market value for the protective equipment.
The department has also begun sending the equipment to health departments in New Jersey and New York State as well as the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. New York City has been hit the hardest by the pandemic across the United States with over 1,300 deaths and 47,400 confirmed cases, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
“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,” HHS Secretary Alex Azar said in a statement.
“President Trump’s all-of-America approach to combating the coronavirus involves an aggressive approach to stopping hoarding, and the American public can play a role by being on the lookout for this behavior,” he added.
Attorney General William Barr said in a statement that the DOJ’s COVID-19 Hoarding and Price Gouging Task Force has been working “around the clock” with law enforcement partners to crack down on individuals or companies who “illicitly profit” from the fear of the CCP virus.
“If you are amassing critical medical equipment for the purpose of selling it at exorbitant prices, you can expect a knock at your door,” he said.
On March 30, the DOJ announced that they had arrested a New York man for allegedly hoarding face masks and coughing on FBI agents after claiming that he was diagnosed with the CCP virus.
The suspect, 43-year-old Baruch Feldheim, of Brooklyn, was accused of hoarding and selling medical equipment and masks at exorbitant prices. In one instance, he sold about 1,000 N95 masks and other assorted equipment to a doctor for $12,000—about a 700 percent markup from the normal price, the department said.
He was charged with assaulting a federal officer and with making false statements to law enforcement.
President Donald Trump signed an executive order on March 23 to prevent the price gouging and hoarding of “critical resources” used to combat the CCP virus.
The executive order was made pursuant to the Defense Production Act, which prohibits the hoarding of designated items, and directs the HHS to protect scarce medical and health items.
Some of the items designated include N95 filtering facepiece respirators, medical gowns or apparel, personal protective equipment, and disinfecting devices and other sanitizing and disinfecting products.
An earlier version of the article stated the incorrect amount of medical supplies found. More than half a million medical supplies were distributed. The Epoch Times regrets this error.