The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) are distributing personal protection equipment (PPE) that they have confiscated from hoarders including about 192,000 N95 respirator masks to those on the frontline of COVID-19 response in New York and New Jersey.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation discovered the supplies during an enforcement operation by the DOJ’s COVID-19 Hoarding and Price Gouging Task Force on March 30 and alerted HHS, which used its authority under the Defense Production Act to immediately furnish the supplies to the United States.
In addition to the N95 respirator masks, the PPE included 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.
“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,” said HHS Secretary Alex Azar.
HHS will pay the owner of the hoarded equipment pre-COVID-19 fair market value for the supplies and has begun distributing them to meet the critical need for the supplies among healthcare workers in New York and New Jersey, HHS said.
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.
“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,” said Peter Navarro, Defense Production Act Policy Coordinator and Assistant to the President.
“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,” said Navarro.
“If you are amassing critical medical equipment for the purpose of selling it at exorbitant prices, you can expect a knock at your door,” said Attorney General William P. Barr.
“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,” said Barr.
Vendors interested in selling PPE to the federal government should contact the Federal Emergency Management Agency online. Anyone who learns of hoarding or price gouging of PPE should report it to the National Center for Disaster Fraud by calling (866) 720-5721 or emailing email@example.com.