Federal law enforcement officials arrested a New York man this week for allegedly hoarding enough medical supplies to “outfit an entire hospital” as the U.S. faces a pandemic from the coronavirus, which originated in China.
The Department of Justice announced on Monday that the FBI arrested Baruch Feldheim, 43, “for allegedly coughing on FBI agents while claiming to have COVID-19, and with lying to them about his accumulation and sale of surgical masks, medical gowns, and other medical supplies.”
The Department of Health and Human Services issued an executive order last week that designated highly sought after medical supplies as being items that people could not hoard.
The DOJ highlighted several alleged examples, which were included in court documents, of what happened:
Feldheim allegedly sold certain designated materials, including N95 respirators, to doctors and nurses at inflated prices. In one instance, on March 18, 2020, a doctor in New Jersey contacted Feldheim via a WhatsApp chat group labeled “Virus2020!” Feldheim agreed to sell to the doctor approximately 1,000 N95 masks and other assorted materials for $12,000, an approximately 700 percent markup from the normal price charged for those materials. Feldheim directed the doctor to an auto repair shop in Irvington, New Jersey, to pick up the order. According to the doctor, the repair shop contained enough materials, including hand sanitizers, Clorox wipes, chemical cleaning supply agents, and surgical supplies, to outfit an entire hospital. Feldheim later told the doctor that he had been forced to move all of those supplies from Irvington to another location.
On March 23, 2020, Feldheim allegedly offered to sell a nurse a quantity of surgical gowns and directed the nurse to his residence in Brooklyn. Feldheim also received, on March 25, 2020, a shipment from Canada containing approximately eight pallets of medical facemasks. On March 27, 2020, FBI agents observed an empty box of N95 masks outside of Feldheim’s residence.
On March 29, 2020, FBI agents witnessed multiple instances during which individuals approached Feldheim’s residence and walked away with boxes or bags that appeared to contain medical supplies. On that date, FBI agents approached Feldheim outside of his residence. After identifying themselves as FBI agents, they told Feldheim that they wanted to stay a distance away from him given concerns over the spread of Coronavirus. When the agents were within four to five feet of him, Feldheim allegedly coughed in their direction without covering his mouth. The agents then told him that they were looking for certain PPE materials and that they had information that Feldheim was in possession of large quantities of such materials. At that point, Feldheim told the FBI agents that that he had the Coronavirus.
The DOJ added that Feldheim allegedly lied to law enforcement officers about the activities that he was engaged in and falsely claimed that he worked for a company that sold medical equipment.
Feldheim, if convicted, faces up to six years in prison and a $350,000 fine.
On March 23, Attorney General William Barr announced that the DOJ was starting to crackdown on those who were hoarding essential medical supplies.
Barr said, “To ensure the availability of critical medical and health supplies from warding and price gouging. On March 18th, the president issued Executive Order 13909 with the Defense Production Act with the respect to the health and medical resources needed to respond to spread of COVID-19 including PPE and ventilators.”
“We have started to see some evidence of potential hoarding and price gouging,” Barr continued. “So earlier today the president signed a second Executive Order providing the authority to address if it becomes necessary, hoarding that threatens the supply of those necessary health and medical resources.”
“Under section 102 of the Defense Production Act, the president has authorized to prohibit the hoarding of needed resources by designating those materials as scarce or as materials who supply would be threatened by persons accumulating excessive amounts,” Barr continued. “Once specific materials are so designated, persons are prohibited from accumulating those items in excess of reasonable, personal or business needs, or for the purpose of selling them in excess of prevailing market prices.”