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Suburban businessman accused by feds of price gouging PPE as pandemic began

An attorney for Krikor Topouzian said the owner of Concord Health Supply believed he had come up with a legitimate price for the thousands of respirator masks, and he may wind up taking the case to trial. 

Dirksen Federal Courthouse
Dirksen Federal Courthouse
Sun-Times File

Federal prosecutors accused a suburban businessman Thursday of price gouging customers looking for personal protective equipment as the coronavirus pandemic first took hold in March and April.

But an attorney for Krikor Topouzian said the owner of Concord Health Supply believed he had come up with a legitimate price for the thousands of respirator masks the feds say he sold earlier this year, and he may wind up taking the case to trial.

Topouzian, 60, is charged with one count of violating the Defense Production Act. The feds say he purchased 79,160 respirator masks — including N95 masks — from companies in Oregon and Georgia between March 6 and April 7 at prices ranging from $4.27 to $7 each.

Then, between March 29 and April 22, they said he sold 11,492 of the masks for prices as high as $19.95 per mask. They said he offered discounts to customers who purchased multiple masks, ultimately selling the masks at a mean price of $16.82 each.

Prosecutors also said that Topouzian, of Winnetka, received multiple warnings about the prices, including from law enforcement.

But Thomas Leinenweber, Topouzian’s attorney, said the prices covered packaging and shipping costs, and were based on other products sold by Topouzian’s company. He said Topouzian only got into the mask business when a former employee sought his help.

“Concord priced the masks for individual purchase and was absolutely not gouging,” Leinenweber said in a written statement. “Concord’s prices have always included all packaging and shipping costs. The overwhelming majority of their customers were extremely satisfied with the products, reliability, and prices. He will have his day in court.”