(NEW YORK) — A New York pharmacist is under federal investigation for allegedly price-gouging N95 masks during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a federal search warrant.
Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) agents and New York Police Department detectives recently seized 6,500 N95 masks from Richard Schirripa’s Madison Avenue and Long Island residences.
Schirripa had been selling N95 respirator masks, an in-demand piece of personal protective equipment, at a markup, according to court records.
The U.S. has the highest number of COVID-19 cases worldwide, with more than 577,000 people testing positive. As hospitals across the country battle supply shortages, the Department of Health and Human Services has targeted the hoarding of the scarce PPE, and HSI has been scouring the internet for evidence of price gouging.
According to a search warrant document, a tipster called HSI earlier this month with information “that Richard Schirripa was allegedly selling bulk PPE at inflated prices throughout the New York area.”
In a recorded phone call with an undercover HSI agent, the pharmacist allegedly boasted of his mask supply and the inflated price he could charge.
“The masks I have, I bought prior to the outbreak in the U.S. 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 allegedly told the agent, according to the search warrant application. “I used to sell a box of these for like $20, now it’s like $15 a mask.”
NYPD detectives and federal agents began surveillance and witnessed “Schirripa engage in hand-to-hand transactions consistent with his repeated bulk sale of PPE, including masks” over two days last week, according to the search warrant application.
On April 9, the undercover agent met Schirripa, who allegedly sold him 15 boxes of N95 commercial-grade masks and one box of N95 surgical-grade masks for nearly $2,700, according to court records.
Agents and federal prosecutors are reviewing the evidence to see what, if any, charges would be filed.
Schirripa was unable to be reached for comment.
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