Bergen County Company Admits Price Gouging KN95 Masks During COVID-19 Pandemic
NEWARK, N.J (STL.News) A Bergen County, New Jersey, company today admitted its role in price gouging a chain of New Jersey grocery stores in connection with the sale of KN95 masks during the COVID-19 pandemic, Acting U.S. Attorney Rachael A. Honig announced.
TSC Agency LLC (TSC), a logistics and freight forwarding company based in Mahwah, New Jersey, pleaded guilty by videoconference before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jessica S. Allen to an information charging it with price gouging in violation of the Defense Production Act.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
In March 2020, TSC and two partners purchased 250,000 KN95 filtering facepiece respirators from a foreign manufacturer. TSC and one of those partners then sold 100,000 masks to a chain of New Jersey grocery stores at prices in excess of prevailing market prices. TSC sold the masks at a price of $5.25 per mask, which amounted to a markup of more than 400 percent from its acquisition cost. Prior to the spread of COVID-19, TSC had no history of selling personal protective equipment.
A violation of the Defense Production Act carries a maximum fine of $200,000, or twice the gross pecuniary gain derived from the offense, or twice the gross pecuniary loss sustained by any victims of the offense, whichever is greatest. Sentencing for TSC Agency is scheduled for April 13, 2022.
Acting U.S. Attorney Honig credited special agents of the Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Peter Fitzhugh in New York, with the investigation.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney David V. Simunovich of the Government Fraud Unit in Newark and Nicholas P. Grippo, Chief of the Criminal Division in Newark.
On May 17, 2021, the Attorney General established the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force to marshal the resources of the Department of Justice in partnership with agencies across government to enhance efforts to combat and prevent pandemic-related fraud.
The Task Force bolsters efforts to investigate and prosecute the most culpable domestic and international criminal actors and assists agencies tasked with administering relief programs to prevent fraud by, among other methods, augmenting and incorporating existing coordination mechanisms, identifying resources and techniques to uncover fraudulent actors and their schemes, and sharing and harnessing information and insights gained from prior enforcement efforts.