NEW YORK (AP) — Federal prosecutors charged a New York retailer Friday with hoarding tons of disposable masks, surgical gowns, and hand sanitiser in a Long Island warehouse and selling the items at huge markups.
Amardeep ‘Bobby’ Singh, 45, was charged with violating the Defense Production Act of 1950 in what authorities described as the first such prosecution during the coronavirus pandemic.
Singh is expected to surrender to authorities next week in the case around what is known as personal protective equipment, which has become a hot commodity during the outbreak.
Singh’s attorney, Bradley Gerstman, called the charges “mostly fiction” and said the complaint misstated his client’s costs.
“If selling PPE goods is improper or criminal, then a lot of people need to go to jail,” Gerstman said in a telephone interview.
“The Defense Production Act is wildly vague, and I don’t think this would pass muster on any appellate level. I think this statute would be struck down as null and void.”
The charges come more than a month after President Donald Trump issued an executive order making it illegal to hoard scarce medical supplies or sell personal protective equipment at inflated prices.
“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,” Brooklyn US Attorney Richard Donoghue said in a written statement.
Singh sells sneakers and apparel at his Plainview store, prosecutors said, but dedicated a new section last month to “COVID-19 Essentials,” including N95 masks, face shields, gloves and disinfecting products.
- Top Feature Photo: Undated provided by the office of the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, personal protective equipment is seen on a table in a Brentwood, New York, warehouse – A Bagnuola/US Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York via AP