U.S. Attorney Bryan Schroder on Monday announced a task force charged with investigating and punishing those who hoard and price gouge certain items associated with COVID-19.
The task force comes as the Department of Justice responds to a March 23, 2020 Executive Order signed by President Donald Trump.
“The Department of Justice, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Alaska, will not tolerate those who try to take advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic to defraud the people of our state,” said Schroder in a statement. “The pandemic continues to cause anxiety and uncertainty across the country. At a time when our country needs to join together, it is repugnant that fraudsters will try to take advantage of our communities. The U.S. Attorney’s Office, along with our law enforcement partners in Alaska and beyond, will root out these schemes and bring the criminals to justice.”
The president’s order gave the Department means to fight misconduct under the authority of Section 102 of the Defense Production Act, which prohibits hoarding of designated items. The order authorizes the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to protect scarce healthcare resources and medical items by designating particular items as protected under the statute. Once an item is designated, it becomes a crime under the statute 50 U.S.C. §§ 4512, 4513 for any person to accumulate that item either (1) in excess of his or her reasonable needs or (2) for the purpose of selling it in excess of prevailing market prices.
In response, HHS announced a list of designated health and medical resources necessary to respond to the spread of COVID-19 that are scarce and would be subject to these hoarding prevention measures:
- N-95 Filtering Facepiece Respirators;
- Other Filtering Facepiece Respirators (e.g., those designated as N99, N100, R95, R99, R100, or P95, P99, P100);
- Elastomeric, air-purifying respirators and appropriate particulate filters/cartridges;
- Powered Air Purifying Respirator (PAPR);
- Portable Ventilators;
- Chloroquine phosphate or hydroxychloroquine HCl;
- Sterilization services for certain medical devices and certain sterilizers;
- Disinfecting devices and other sanitizing and disinfecting products suitable for use in a clinical setting;
- Medical gowns or apparel, e.g., surgical gowns or isolation gowns;
- Personal protective equipment (PPE) coveralls, e.g., Tyvek Suits;
- PPE face masks, PPE surgical masks, PPE face shields, PPE gloves or surgical gloves;
- Ventilators, anesthesia gas machines modified for use as ventilators, and positive pressure breathing devices modified for use as ventilators, ventilator tubing connectors, and ventilator accessories.
U.S. Attorney Schroder urged Alaskans to be vigilant in reporting any COVID-19 related hoarding or fraud activities, noting that criminals will likely continue to use new methods to exploit COVID-19 worldwide.
If you think you are a victim of a scam or attempted fraud involving COVID-19, you can report it without leaving your home though a number of platforms: