NY man becomes first charged under Defense Production Act for alleged price gouging of protective gear
A New York man became the first person charged with price gouging of personal protective gear under the Defense Production Act (DPA) since the start of the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S.
The Justice Department announced Friday that it had filed a criminal complaint against Amardeep Singh, accusing him of violating the 1950 wartime law by hoarding personal protective equipment (PPE) at a warehouse in Brentwood, N.Y., and price gouging customers at his retail store in Plainview, N.Y.
Singh faces up to one year in prison if convicted.
“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.”
Federal prosecutors said Singh, who runs a retail store selling sneakers and apparel, began hoarding several different types of PPE there and at a nearby warehouse. He also allegedly had a section of his store for “COVID-19 Essentials” that sold N95 respirators, face shields, gloves and more at inflated prices.
He allegedly received 40 shipments to his store and warehouse of goods that were designated by the federal government as scarce. A search warrant for the goods was executed on April 14, and authorities seized 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.
Court documents showed that Singh allegedly sold face shields for $9.99 after purchasing them for $3.10. Disposable face masks were marked up to $1 from 7 cents and boxes of gloves were priced at $7.99 after being obtained for $2.50.
“The Coronavirus has created challenging times for all Americans, especially those living in the New York metropolitan area,” said Philip Bartlett, inspector in charge for the United States Postal Inspection Service’s New York division. “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,” he added.
President Trump signed an executive order last month invoking the Defense Production Act to force certain industries to manufacture much-needed tools and PPE. The order made it illegal to obtain medical tools designated by the secretary of Health and Human Services as scarce in order to hoard them or sell them for excessive prices.