A New York businessman who had the foresight to stock up on personal protective equipment before the rest of the world "woke up" to the pandemic is now being charged with violating the U.S. Defense Production Act for "hoarding" and "price gouging".
45 year old Amardeep Singh was storing the items at a warehouse in Long Island and was selling the items - at a hefty mark-up - from his store in Plainview. For his business acumen in the "land of the free", he now faces up to a year of jailtime, according to Bloomberg.
President Trump's March 18 executive order made it illegal to hoard medical supplies and then re-sell them at "excessive" prices.
Singh's lawyer says he was unaware that he was breaking any Federal law: “This Defense Production Act is a very general law which lacks any specificity on what exactly price gouging is. Once all the facts are laid out, you will see that my client didn’t violate the law. We deny any wrongdoing that my client gouged on any profits. He’s innocent and will be cleared.”
Singh began to stock up on the equipment in mid-March to supply a "Covid-19 Essentials" section of his store, which included N95 masks, surgical masks, face shields and disinfectants. He was selling disposable face masks that cost $0.07 each for $1 each and bulk sales were made to "organizations serving vulnerable senior citizens and children battling the virus," U.S. Attorney Richard Donoghue said.
Another U.S. attorney said: "Singh saw the devastating Covid-19 pandemic as an opportunity to make illegal profits on needed personal protective equipment.”
Postal inspectors then seized 23 pallets of inventory from Singh's warehouse, including 100,000 face masks, 10,000 surgical gowns, 2,500 full-body isolation suits and more than 500,000 pairs of disposable gloves.
The capital deployed by Singh to obtain all of his store's inventory, we're guessing, will not be refunded to him.
The New York State attorney general sent Singh a cease-and-desist letter on April 1 warning him about price gouging on hand sanitizer he was selling.
And so, that's what you get for buying up things that are going to be in demand and reselling them for a profit - a U.S. attorney accusing you of "illegal" profits. Perhaps if the U.S. attorney's office really want to rope in "illegal" profits their time would be better served overseeing Wall Street and the Fed, instead of hassling a local store owner.