‘If you are amassing critical medical equipment for the purpose of selling it at exorbitant prices, you can expect a knock at your door…’
On Monday, the FBI located the supplies—which include at least 192,000 N95 respirator masks, 598,000 medical gloves and 130,000 surgical masks—and alerted the Department of Health and Human Services.
HHS then activated the Defense Production Act to seize the supplies.
“The Department of Justice’s COVID-19 Hoarding and Price Gouging Task Force is working tirelessly around the clock with all our law enforcement partners to ensure that bad actors cannot illicitly profit from the COVID-19 pandemic facing our nation,” he added.
Barr also said those who continued hoarding of necessary medical supplies would be prosecuted.
“Cracking down on the hoarding of vital supplies allows us to distribute this material to the heroic healthcare workers on the frontlines who are most in need,” HHS Secretary Alex Azar said in the statement.
President Donald Trump created the specific price-gouging task force last week.
He asked the intelligence community to prioritize tracking down vendors and others hoarders who were holding onto medical supplies in order to sell them for excessive profit and manipulate the markets.
This operation is the “first of many such investigations that are underway,” said Peter Navarro, an assistant to the president.
“Our FBI agents and other law enforcement agencies are tracking down every tip and lead they get, and are devoting massive federal resources to this effort,” Navarro said in a statement.
“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,” he said.