Apr 12, 2020 - Health

DOJ charged man for $750 million scheme to sell non-existent face masks to VA

Attorney General William Barr walks through a hallway at the U.S. Capitol February 25, 2020 in Washington, DC.
Attorney General Bill Barr at the U.S. Capitol. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

A Georgia man is facing a wire fraud charge for allegedly trying to sell "millions of nonexistent respirator masks to the Department of Veterans Affairs in exchange for large upfront payments," per a Department of Justice statement.

Details: Christopher Parris, 39, from Atlanta, was arrested Friday on suspicion of attempting to "secure orders from the Department of Veterans Affairs for 125 million face masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE) that would have totaled over $750 million," the DOJ said.

  • 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 Minnesota-based manufacturer has produced millions of masks amid a surge in demand during the novel coronavirus cases outbreak.)
  • "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," the Justice Department said.

What they're saying: Attorney General Bill Barr vowed in a statement to "vigorously pursue fraudsters who exploit the COVID-19 pandemic to make money."

  • "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," he said.

What's next: Parris was ordered during an appearance before the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia on Friday to be extradited to the District of Columbia to face his charge.

  • If convicted, he could face up to 20 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine.

Go deeper: Report: DOJ memo advises on "terrorism-related statutes" in coronavirus cases

Go deeper