The man tried the same scheme on state governments, according to prosecutors.
Federal agencies are cracking down on coronavirus-related fraud, including schemes targeting government agencies.
On Friday, the Justice Department announced charges against a 39-year-old Georgia man for allegedly trying to sell more than $750 million in “nonexistent respirator masks” to the Veterans Affairs Department.
According to a release announcing the charges, Christopher Parris, of Atlanta, told VA he could source 125 million face masks and other personal protective equipment, or PPE, despite allegedly knowing he could not deliver.
“For example, the complaint alleges that Parris promised that he could obtain millions of genuine 3M masks from domestic factories when he knew that fulfilling the orders would not be possible,” the release states. “Parris also allegedly made similar false representations to other entities in an effort to enter into other fraudulent agreements to sell PPE to state governments.”
Parris was charged with wire fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
“As this case demonstrates, even beyond the typical costs associated with unlawful behavior, COVID-19 scams divert government time and resources and risk preventing front-line responders and consumers from obtaining the equipment they need to combat this pandemic,” Attorney General William Barr said. “The Department of Justice will not tolerate this conduct, especially when it involves this kind of egregious attempt to target and defraud our nation’s treasures—our veterans.”
Previously, the General Services Administration received reports from a customer agency that someone purporting to be a vendor with a schedule contract attempted to sell hand sanitizer and cleaning supplies at exorbitant prices. The agency warned all federal buyers to double-check prices on GSA Advantage and verify vendors in eLibrary.
The Justice Department urged anyone who suspects COVID-19-related fraud to contact the National Center for Disaster Fraud at 866-720-5721 or firstname.lastname@example.org.