Medical supplies seized from alleged price gouger to be distributed to hospitals
The equipment includes nearly 200,000 N95 masks.
Hundreds of thousands of masks and other pieces of medical equipment seized from a Brooklyn man will be distributed to medical workers on the front lines treating novel coronavirus patients in New York and New Jersey, the Justice Department and Department of Health and Human Services announced Thursday.
According to the DOJ, the equipment includes roughly 192,000 N95 respirator masks, nearly 600,000 medical gloves, 130,000 surgical masks, procedure masks, N100 masks, surgical gowns, disinfectant towels, particulate filters, bottles of hand sanitizer and disinfectant spray.
Prosecutors say 43-year-old Baruch Feldheim hoarded the supplies in order to take advantage of the COVID-19 crisis and was selling them to doctors and nurses at prices as much as 700% above market value.
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When FBI agents confronted Feldheim on Sunday about the sales, he allegedly coughed in their direction and told them he had coronavirus.
Feldheim was charged with assault of a federal officer, as well as lying to investigators for allegedly deceiving them when they asked him about the equipment. Feldheim has not yet entered a plea to the charges but his attorney told ABC News in a statement that he "categorically denies" the allegations by DOJ.
"He's not charged with hoarding or price gouging," lawyer James Moriarity said in a statement. "He's charged with lying to a federal agent and coughing in his direction. He categorically denies these charges."
According to HHS, Feldheim will be paid at market value for the equipment being distributed 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.
The quick distribution of the materials, which typically would be processed and held as evidence for longer period, was made possible after HHS invoked emergency authorities under the Defense Production Act.
"If you are amassing critical medical equipment for the purpose of selling it at exorbitant prices, you can expect a knock at your door," Attorney General William Barr said in a statement on the case.
The DOJ is encouraging Americans who learn of hoarding or price gouging of medical supplies during the COVID-19 pandemic to report it to the National Center for Disaster Fraud by dialing 1-866-720-5721 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
ABC's Gerry Wagschal contributed reporting to this article.
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