Investigators find lifesaving PPE supplies in New York warehouse.
Federal prosecutors in New York charged Amardeep Singh, the owner of Warehouse Liquidation Center, a large sneaker and apparel store in Plainview, with hoarding lifesaving COVID-19 personal protective equipment (PPE). Singh was accused by the Department of Justice (DOJ) of violating the Defense Production Act, first instituted in 1950 during the Korean War and amended in subsequent years, for selling face masks, gloves, gowns, and other supplies needed by the healthcare community to fend off the virus. On March 18, President Donald Trump issued Executive Order 13909 commencing the Defense Production Act, making the sale of PPE equipment to the general public illegal. Singh had hoarded tens of thousands of products.
“As charged in the complaint, Singh’s amassing of critical personal protective equipment during a public health crisis and reselling at huge markups places him squarely in the cross-hairs of law enforcement armed with the Defense Production Act,” said U.S. Attorney Richard Donoghue. “This Office is working tirelessly in coordination with the COVID-19 Hoarding and Price Gouging Task Force to prevent a pandemic of greed by profiteers.”
“The criminal complaint describes a defendant who allegedly saw the devastating COVID-19 pandemic as an opportunity to make illegal profits on needed personal protective equipment,” added Craig Carpenito who heads the DOJ’s nationwide COVID-19 Hoarding and Price Gouging Task Force. “The Department of Justice and its partners will intervene whenever profiteers and scammers break the law by capitalizing on the public’s fear to enrich themselves.”
Philip R. Bartlett, Inspector-in-Charge, United States Postal Inspection Service, New York Division (USPIS) also commented, “The coronavirus has created challenging times for all Americans, especially those living in the New York metropolitan area. During a crisis of this magnitude, we must come together as a country to fight this common enemy. Unfortunately, Mr. Singh allegedly chose to use this opportunity to make money by hoarding and price gouging PPE. The conduct charged in the complaint is reprehensible and against our most fundamental American values.”
Investigators indicated Singh’s Warehouse Liquidation Center was distributing the PPE at “unconscionably excessive prices during a period of market disruption even after repeated warnings from county and state authorities.” The owner even sold inventory designated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as “scarce resources,” including face shields and isolation suits.
The haul was discovered when Postal Inspectors executed a search warrant of the warehouse, seizing more than 100,000 face masks, 10,000 surgical gowns, nearly 2,500 full-body isolation suits and more than 500,000 pairs of disposable gloves. If convicted, Singh could face up to a year in prison.
New York continues to be the hardest hit state during the ongoing pandemic with nearly 300,000 coronavirus cases and over 22,000 deaths to date. Experts believe this this because of the state’s dense population, higher than any other, and its demographics. Black and Hispanic New York City residents represent 51% of the total and account for 62% of coronavirus deaths. These populations are more likely to experience severe symptoms of the virus and could be less likely to be able to access healthcare resources, and unfortunately, scammers will continue to take advantage of vulnerable populations.