“Price gouging essential products during a pandemic is already unethical"
A US Indian man has been charged with violating the Defence Protection Act after he allegedly hoarded tons of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
Prosecutors say that Amardeep Singh, aged 45, filled his Long Island warehouse and shop with PPE that is needed by frontline workers.
Even though there is a serious shortage of PPE in the United States, Singh kept the equipment and sold it for huge markups.
United States Attorney Richard Donoghue said:
“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 Defence Production Act.”
Singh’s attorney, Brad Gerstman, said his client claims he is innocent and will fight the charges.
He stated: “Given the set of circumstances we’re all living in with Coronavirus, everyone trying to still make a living.
“For the federal government to start targeting private business and people seems unconscionable to me.”
President Donald Trump issued an executive order invoking the Defence Production Act on March 18, 2020, making it illegal to hoard products like PPE and sanitising products “in excess of reasonable demands of business, personal or home consumption,” and prohibited resale of projects at prices “in excess of prevailing market prices”.
It was alleged that in mid-March, Singh created a section of his shop called ‘COVID-19 Essentials”.
He sold N95 respirators, face masks, surgical masks, face shields, gloves, coveralls, medical gowns and clinical-grade disinfectant products.
According to prosecutors, Singh received more than 1.6 tons of face masks, 1.8 tons of hand sanitiser and shipments of surgical gowns weighing over 2.2 tons.
Singh is based in Nassau County, New York, where county executive Laura Curran said first responders are facing a critical gown shortage.
In a statement, Ms Curran said:
“Price gouging essential products during a pandemic is already unethical, but to hoard gowns when our County’s hospital workers are in desperate need of them? Outrageous.”
On the business Instagram page, Singh is seen posing with law enforcement and healthcare workers who he claims he donated PPE to.
A screenshot of the Instagram page was shared with a photo of Singh wearing a face shield, with a mask not covering his face, standing behind rows of sanitiser and disinfecting wipes.
The business was raided on April 14. Authorities discovered over 21,000 N95 respirators, 75,000 surgical masks, 176,000 latex gloves and more.
Prosecutors have said he sold face masks for $1 that were normally 7 cents, a markup of approximately 1,328%.
Mr Gerstman said the US Indian man was supporting his family during a difficult financial period. He called the charges “absurd”.
“There’s nothing illegal about selling hand sanitiser, gloves or masks.”
“He claims he wasn’t gouging and that evidence of that will be laid out in the coming court proceedings.”
The complaint alleges that he sold products to non-profit organisations that help children and the elderly who are battling the virus.
Singh faces up to one year in prison if he is convicted.