A New York man, accused of amassing tons of scarce protective equipment sought by nurses and doctors treating COVID-19 patients, was charged Friday with hoarding and price gouging related to sales of surgical masks, medical gowns, gloves and hand sanitizer.
Federal prosecutors alleged that Amardeep “Bobby” Singh, who previously sold clothing and sneakers, began marketing a new product line in mid-March, as medical professionals scrambled to find gear to shield themselves from the deadly coronavirus.
Singh’s new business, allegedly operated out of a Long Island warehouse, first caught the attention of authorities March 18, when the owner was cited by Nassau County officials for engaging in “unconscionable trade practices” related to the re-sale of face masks packaged in Ziploc bags.
The New York attorney general followed up April 1, issuing a cease and desist order against Singh’s business.
But federal prosecutors said that Singh continued to stock the equipment, including 2.2 tons of medical gowns and 253 pounds of digital thermometers.
According to court documents, Singh allegedly offered face shields for $9.99, after acquiring them at a cost of $3.10. Disposable face masks were marked up, from 7 cents each to $1, while boxes of gloves, acquired for as little as $2.50 each, were priced at $7.99.
During April 14 searches of Singh’s retail store and warehouse, U.S. Postal Service inspectors seized 23 pallets of equipment, including 100,000 face masks, 10,000 surgical gowns, nearly 2,500 full-body isolation suits and more than 500,000 pairs of disposable gloves.
“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,” said New Jersey U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito, who is leading a federal enforcement effort related to pandemic-related hoarding and price gouging crimes. “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.”
Singh could not immediately be reached for comment, and court records did not identify a defense attorney assigned to the case.
Charged with violations of the Defense Production Act, Singh faces a maximum punishment of a year in prison if convicted.