The federal government announced Thursday that it’s confiscated more than 920,000 pieces of personal protective equipment from an individual hoarding them with plans to sell at a sizeable markup.
Officials said they’re working now to redistribute the haul—which includes 192,000 N95 respirator masks—to providers desperate for PPE during their pandemic response. The American College of Radiology and several other imaging societies recently urged the president to help their members with severe shortages of such equipment.
"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," Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said in an April 2 statement.
HHS and the Department of Justice partnered on the operation, with the confiscated items going to hard-hit providers in New York and New Jersey. Along with the N95 respirators, they also confiscated 598,000 medical-grade gloves, 130,000 surgical masks, and numerous other items.
DOJ discovered the supplies as part of its COVID-19 Hoarding and Price Gouging Task Force, while HHS used its authority under the Defense Production Act to confiscate the haul. The feds have paid the owner of the equipment “fair market value” for the items, according to the announcement.
Officials said they expect further seizures and are asking the public to voluntarily release any hoarded medical items, rather than waiting for authorities to arrive.
"If you are amassing critical medical equipment for the purpose of selling it at exorbitant prices, you can expect a knock at your door," Attorney General William Barr said in a statement. "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."