A pharmacist known as 'the Mask Man' has been charged with hoarding $200,000 worth of N95 masks and price-gouging customers
Getty Images/Matthew Horwood
- A New York pharmacist bought up $200,000 worth of N95 masks before the coronavirus pandemic grew severe in the US, then sold them at up to a 50% markup, prosecutors allege.
- The pharmacist, 66-year-old Richard Schirripa, sold more than $2,000 worth of masks to an undercover officer, and said during the transaction he felt “like a drug dealer standing out here.”
- Schirripa has been arrested and charged with violating the Defense Production Act by hoarding and price-gouging.
- According to an affidavit written by the undercover officer, Schirripa appeared to recognize during their conversation that the masks were both desperately needed within the US, and also in short supply.
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A New York pharmacist known as “the Mask Man” hoarded $200,000 worth of N95 masks that he purchased shortly before the coronavirus pandemic hit the United States, and sold them at a roughly 50% markup, prosecutors alleged.
<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Richard Schirripa, 66, was charged with violating the Defense Production Act by hoarding and price-gouging the masks. He was also charged with making false statements to law enforcement, committing healthcare fraud, and committing aggravated identity theft.” data-reactid=”25″>Richard Schirripa, 66, was charged with violating the Defense Production Act by hoarding and price-gouging the masks. He was also charged with making false statements to law enforcement, committing healthcare fraud, and committing aggravated identity theft.
<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Schirripa was arrested after he sold 16 boxes of N95 masks to an undercover officer for $2,690, court documents said.” data-reactid=”26″>Schirripa was arrested after he sold 16 boxes of N95 masks to an undercover officer for $2,690, court documents said.
“I feel like a drug dealer standing out here,” Schirripa told the officer during the transaction.
Prosecutors alleged in a criminal complaint that Schirripa orchestrated “at least three different criminal schemes,” including one to hoard and price-gouge N95 masks made by 3M, another to keep thousands of controlled substance pills inside his home instead of selling or destroying them when his pharmacy closed, and another to cause Medicare and Medicaid to be billed for the prescriptions.
The DOJ said Schirripa was selling masks that typically cost $1.27 for up to $25 per mask.
It’s unclear from the court documents whether Schirripa has retained a lawyer, or whether he has appeared before a judge yet.
An affidavit written by a Homeland Security Investigations special agent said the agency was tipped off in April that Schirripa was selling bulk personal protective equipment throughout New York City at inflated prices.
Schirripa told an undercover agent he bought the masks before the coronavirus hit the US, and jacked up the price
The agent said when he called Schirripa posing as a potential customer, the pharmacist told him he purchased $200,000 worth of masks while the coronavirus outbreak was still ravaging China, but before cases had started to pile up in the United States.
“When it hit China, I went out to get large quantities and unfortunately I paid very high for them, but you know something, when you have something no one else has, it’s not a high price,” Schirripa told the agent, according to the affidavit.
Schirripa also acknowledged he was selling the masks at a far higher markup than the typical price.
“I used to sell a box of these for like $20, now it’s like $15 a mask,” he said, according to the special agent.
President Donald Trump invoked the Defense Production Act on March 25, making it a crime to hoard or price-gouge products like masks, other personal protective equipment (PPE), and ventilators.
According to the special agent’s affidavit, Schirripa appeared to recognize during the conversation that the masks were both desperately needed within the US, and also in short supply.
“We’re in a time of emergency and shortage,” Schirripa told the agent.
“At this time when our nation is battling the COVID-19 pandemic and we expect that our healthcare professionals are standing in solidarity with us, the defendant, Richard Schirripa, a licensed pharmacist, allegedly sought to capitalize and profit from the suffering of others,” special agent in charge Peter Fitzhugh said in a statement.
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