An engineer who received a $69.1 million contract from New York state, after replying to one of President TrumpDonald TrumpHeadaches intensify for Democrats in Florida Stormy Daniels set to testify against former lawyer Avenatti in fraud trial Cheney challenger wins Wyoming Republican activists' straw poll MORE’s tweets, never provided the ventilators, BuzzFeed News reported Wednesday.
New York state signed a contract with electrical engineer Yaron Oren-Pines in late March for 1,450 ventilators at a price of $47,656 per ventilator, which is about triple the standard retail price of high-end versions, a state official told BuzzFeed News. But none of the ventilators ever showed up.
The state official told BuzzFeed News that the state entered the contract with Oren-Pines because the White House coronavirus task force recommended him. The contract has since been terminated, and New York is scrambling to retrieve its money.
“The guy was recommended to us by the White House coronavirus task force because they were doing business with him, as well,” the official said. “I think everyone was genuinely trying to help each other out and get supplies.”
The payment to Oren-Pines was the largest single payment made by the state’s health department under Gov. Andrew CuomoAndrew CuomoHochul raises .6 million since launching gubernatorial campaign Former aide says she felt 'abandoned' by Democrats who advanced Garcetti nomination as ambassador to India De Blasio says he won't run for New York governor MORE’s (D) executive order to speed up retrieving medical equipment, according to BuzzFeed News. Officials declined to say how much of the payment the state was able to get back.
BuzzFeed News found that New York signed a contract with Oren-Pines three days after he replied to Trump’s tweet calling for Ford and General Motors to develop more ventilators.
“We can supply ICU Ventilators, invasive and noninvasive,” Oren-Pines said on March 27. "Have someone call me URGENT.”
Oren-Pines told BuzzFeed News that “neither me nor my company is providing any comment on this.”
Katie Miller, a spokeswoman for Vice President Pence, said in a statement obtained by BuzzFeed News that "the White House Coronavirus Task Force was never informed of this contract and was not involved in it at all."
Cuomo senior adviser Richard Azzopardi maintained that states were left "to fend for themselves" in obtaining medical supplies.
"We had no choice but to overturn every rock to find ventilators and other needed equipment," he said.
He said the contracts are being reevaluated "continuously" now that the "current needs" have been met. The state is working on building its stockpile with some shipments yet to come.
Cuomo’s executive order allowed the state to pay for medical supplies before an order was filled to supply the state with the desperately needed ventilators and equipment.
Between March 19 and April 27, the state’s health department signed 77 checks for at least $1 million to obtain medical supplies, reaching a total of $735 million, according to state records obtained by BuzzFeed News. Most payments were given to firms with little or no apparent experience in medicine, the news outlet noted.
Updated: 5:13 p.m.