US COVID-19 Equipment Hoarder Faces Fraud Charges For Price-Gouging Hospitals

WASHINGTON (Pakistan Point News / Sputnik - 28th January, 2021) The United States filed wire- and mail-fraud against a businessman who purchasing huge quantities of protective equipment (PPE) at the onset of the COVID-19 crisis and sold his stash to healthcare providers at inflated prices, the Justice Department said in a press release.

"The indictment alleges that after the first US-confirmed case of COVID-19, [Kenneth] Ritchey participated in a scheme to defraud health care providers, including the VA [Veterans Administration], of more than $1.8 million by acquiring PPE and other designated materials from all possible sources, including home improvement stores and online retailers, and ultimately hoarding the same," the release said on Wednesday.

Due to nationwide PPE shortages and COVID-19-related fears, Ritchey then directed sales representatives to solicit health care providers, including the Veterans Administration, to purchase PPE and other designated materials at excessively inflated prices through high-pressure sales tactics and through misrepresenting sourcing and actual costs, the release also said.

For example, the indictment claims that Ritchey sold N-95 face masks to the Veterans Administration and other health care providers for as much as $25.00 per mask, despite acquiring such masks at much lower prices.

Ritchey made his initial appearance Wednesday before US Judge Robert Myers in the state of Mississippi, according to the release.