Two Inland Empire men accused in $4-million scam to sell N95 masks
Two Inland Empire men were arrested after allegedly seeking more than $4 million for N95 respirators they did not have, federal authorities said.
Donald Lee Allen, 62, of Riverside and Manuel Revolorio, 37, of Rancho Cucamonga were charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, the U.S. attorney’s office said. Both men were scheduled to be released Monday evening on $50,000 bond each.
“The defendants sought to take advantage of the urgent national need for lifesaving personal protective equipment through a fraudulent scheme designed to line their own pockets,” Richard Donoghue, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said in a statement.
The pair created a website misrepresenting the nature of their business and their inventory, falsely claiming to have been in the medical supply business since 2014, the U.S. attorney’s office said. They also allegedly falsely claimed that their business had contracts and agreements in place to resell millions of masks.
To bolster their claims, Allen and Revolorio displayed sealed and shrink-wrapped boxes at their office, saying they were filled with N95 respirators and surgical masks, according to the criminal complaint. Most of the boxes were actually empty.
The pair displayed more than 1 million masks owned by an unrelated third party to a federal agent posing as the representative of an investor.
The charges come as hospitals battling the coronavirus grapple with a nationwide shortage of protective gear and a rise of counterfeit masks on the market.
State officials are paying inflated prices for gear as they navigate a marketplace rife with fraud and price gouging in search of millions of masks for healthcare workers, inmates and government employees deemed essential.
“The public should be on guard against these types of schemes,” Craig Carpenito, head of the Department of Justice task force on COVID-19 hoarding and price gouging, said in a statement.
Start your day right
Sign up for Essential California for news, features and recommendations from the L.A. Times and beyond in your inbox six days a week.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.