A Georgia man has been arrested and charged with fraud after attempting to sell the Department of Veterans Affairs millions of nonexistent respirator masks according to an announcement from the Justice Department.
Christopher Parris, 39, from Atlanta, GA, was named in a criminal complaint alleging that he made fraudulent misrepresentations in an attempt to secure orders from the VA for 125 million face masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE) that would have totaled over $750 million.
For example, the complaint alleges that Parris promised that he could obtain millions of genuine 3M masks from domestic factories when he knew that fulfilling the orders would not be possible.
Parr’s allegedly told the VA he would sell the masks for $6.45 each, despite the fact that the equipment did not exist. Lawyers for 3M say that these masks are typically sold for $.60 to $1.20 each.
With the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic in full swing, there have been an uptick in the number of scams trying to play on peoples’ fears about the virus.
Attorney General William Barr has directed US attorneys to aggressively crack down on criminal activities meant to exploit the situation.
“We will vigorously pursue fraudsters who exploit the COVID-19 pandemic to make money,” said Barr.
He added, “As this case demonstrates, even beyond the typical costs associated with unlawful behavior, COVID-19 scams divert government time and resources and risk preventing front-line responders and consumers from obtaining the equipment they need to combat this pandemic. The Department of Justice will not tolerate this conduct, especially when it involves this kind of egregious attempt to target and defraud our nation’s treasures – our veterans.”
If convicted, Parris faces a maximum of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.