The Justice Department and Department of Health and Human Services have seized 192,000 N95 respirator masks, 598,000 gloves, and 130,000 other personal protective equipment and disinfectant from someone hoarding those supplies, they announced Thursday.
The supplies were seized under the Defense Production Act, and a fair market value will be paid to the owner, the HHS said. The supplies are already being distributed to health-care workers in New York and New Jersey.
“This is the first of many such investigations that are underway,” Peter Navarro, who is the government’s Defense Production Act coordinator, said in a statement.
The FBI discovered the equipment during an enforcement operation by the Justice Department’s COVID-19 Hoarding and Price Gouging Task Force.
“All individuals and companies hoarding any of these critical supplies, or selling them at well above market prices, are hereby warned they should turn them over to local authorities or the federal government now or risk prompt seizure by the federal government,” Navarro said.
Hoarding Task Force
The DOJ’s hoarding task force was created by Attorney General William Barr after President Donald Trump’s March 23 executive order on the hoarding of medical resources.
In a memo released the next day, Barr said the task force would investigate and prosecute those who “acquire vital medical supplies in excess of what they would reasonably use or for the purpose of charging exorbitant prices to the healthcare workers and hospitals who need them.”
The task force will also work with the administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, whose authority under the Stafford Act extends to seizing and redistributing necessary medical supplies, Barr said.
Barr named Craig Carpenito, U.S. attorney for the District of New Jersey, as head of the task force, which also will include a member from each U.S. attorney’s office around the country and others from ”relevant department components.”