Authorities say they confiscated a shipment of a half-million counterfeit N-95 masks at O’Hare International Airport last week.
The shipment was on its way from Schenzhen, China to a company in Manalapan, New Jersey, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
Under normal conditions, the N-95 shipment would sell for under $500,000. But high demand for personal protective equipment during the coronavirus pandemic raised the selling price to more than $3 million, CBP said in a news release.
Customs officers suspected the Sept. 10 shipment was counterfeit and sent 30 of the masks to the Centers for Disease and Control for testing. They found that 10% of the masks didn’t meet their efficiency rating.
The shipment was seized as “misbranded products” and turned over to the Department of Homeland Security for further investigation, CBP said.
“These masks did not meet the safety standards outlined by the CDC, which puts the public at risk, jeopardizing the health and well being of everyone,” Shane Campbell, CBP Area Port Director of Chicago, said in the release.
Since the spring, the COVID-19 pandemic has left state governments scrambling for protective equipment and supplies to protect frontline workers and patients.
The PPE industry has been compared to the “wild west,” with a variety of shifty players who continually back out of deals, only to come back with new offers at higher prices.