April 26 (UPI) — The Justice Department has charged a New York man for price-gouging personal protective equipment, the first charges to come under the Defense Production Act since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Eastern District of New York said Amardeep Singh violated the act by “hoarding” PPE at a warehouse in Brentwood, N.Y., and price-gouging customers at his retail store in Plainview, N.Y.
Prosecutors said he began accumulating N95 respirators, face masks, surgical masks, face shields, gloves, coveralls, medical gowns, and clinical-grade sanitizing and disinfecting products in mid-March. He then sold the items for “excessive prices” at his retail store — which normally sells sneakers and apparel — in a section he called “COVID-19 essentials.
The indictment said Singh purchased face masks for 7 cents each but sold them for $1 each, a markup of more than 1,300 percent.
“The coronavirus has created challenging times for all Americans, especially those living in the New York metropolitan area,” said Philip Bartlett, inspector-in-charge at the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, 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.”
President Donald Trump invoked the DPA in March to make it illegal to hoard or sell medical supplies or devices at excessive prices.