The DHS confiscated over 11 million counterfeit 3M N95 masks and extra assaults will comply with
U.S. Immigration and Customs Service (ICE) December 2020 image shows members of El Paso Homeland Security and U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers seizing counterfeit N95 surgical masks from a cargo facility in El Paso Port, El Paso, Texas, work.
ICE via AP
The Department of Homeland Security announced on Wednesday that it had confiscated more than 11 million counterfeit 3M N95 respirators intended for frontline health workers.
DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said at a press conference that the seizures have been made in the past few weeks, including hundreds of thousands of masks discovered during raids on a warehouse on the east coast on Wednesday.
Homeland Security agents have been investigating cases in the past two weeks and have issued search warrants in five states, Mayorkas said. More raids, he said, are expected in the next few weeks.
The raids were part of Operation Stolen Promise, launched in April by Homeland Security and government and private sector partners to investigate Covid-19-related fraud.
“We are of course at a vulnerable time when the pandemic is costing so many lives and causing so much damage,” Mayorkas said. “And we will continue to aggressively pursue the fact that individuals, criminals, take advantage of our weak points for a quick buck.”
Mayorkas noted that the first evidence of the investigation came from 3M, who reported alleged counterfeit masks being purchased for health care workers and first responders.
“This collaboration has helped prevent millions of counterfeit respirators from getting to the frontlines,” said Kevin Rhodes, 3M’s deputy general counsel, in a statement. “We are committed to fighting the pandemic from all angles – making PPE, preventing counterfeiting, and making sure N95s get where they are most needed.”
DHS officials declined to determine where the raids took place, saying they had no comment on an ongoing investigation. Criminal charges are pending, they said. The DHS said it reported about 6,000 alleged victims of the fraud in at least 12 states, including hospitals, medical facilities and others, who may have bought medical masks from a company Mayorkas called “criminal”.