NEW JERSEY – A New York company 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, according to U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger.
Milk & Honey Ventures LLC (MHV), a company based in Brooklyn pleaded guilty by videoconference before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jessica S. Allen on March 28, 2022, to an information charging it with price gouging in violation of the Defense Production Act, Sellinger said.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court, in March 2020, MHV and two partners purchased 250,000 KN95 filtering facepiece respirators from a foreign manufacturer. MHV and one of those partners then sold 100,000 of those masks to a chain of New Jersey grocery stores at prices in excess of prevailing market prices. MHV 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, MHV 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 MHV is scheduled for Aug. 9, 2022, Sellinger said.
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. For more information on the Department’s response to the pandemic, visit www.justice.gov/coronavirus.
Anyone with information about allegations of attempted fraud involving COVID-19 can report it by calling the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) Hotline at 866-720-5721 or via the NCDF Web Complaint Form at: www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.