Federal Officials Distribute Medical Gear Seized in Price-Gouging Investigation
- Federal agents seized essential medical gear including 192,000 N95 respirator masks, 130,000 surgical masks, 598,000 medical grade gloves, from a man in Brooklyn, NY hoarding and reselling supplies at a 700% mark up.
- When agents confronted the man, he allegedly lied about his crimes and coughed towards them, saying he had tested positive for the coronavirus.
- He was charged with assaulting federal officers and making false statements to law enforcement.
- Officials took possession of the items and distributed them to NY and NJ health departments, saying they will pay the man “fair market value” for the goods.
Federal officials said Thursday that they seized thousands of masks and other essential medical supplies from an alleged hoarder in Brooklyn this week, which they redistributed to health departments in New York and New Jersey.
The supplies, taken from 43-year-old Baruch Feldheim, included 192,000 N95 respirator masks, 130,000 surgical masks, 598,000 medical grade gloves, surgical gowns, disinfectant towels, hand sanitizer, and spray disinfectant.
The Department of Justice and Health and Human Services said the equipment was seized by a task force created to crack down on coronavirus-related hoarding and price gouging.
While personal protective equipment, known as PPE, is in high demand all over the world, it is especially needed in New York and New Jersey, where the most coronavirus cases have been reported in the United States.
The investigation against Feldheim came after a New Jersey doctor told NBC News in an interview last month that because of the severe supply shortages, he resorted to buying protective equipment on the black market at an extremely high price.
Federal agents approached the doctor for more information and he directed them to a WhatsApp group where sales were being facilitated. The doctor told investigators Feldheim charged him $12,000 for a large order of maks, gowns, gloves, and hazmat gear. The F.B.I described that price as a 700% markup.
The doctor told investigators that when he went to pick up his order at an auto repair shop in Irvington, N.J., he saw enough pallets of medical gear, Clorox wipes, hand sanitizer, and surgical equipment to supply an entire hospital. FBI agents even said they themselves saw people walking away from Feldheim’s residence with boxes or bags of what appeared to be medical supplies.
“It’s the most un-American thing I can think of right now, in a time of crisis, for anybody to take materials that they know are needed on the front line and take them out of the supply chain, hide them and try to sell them at a markup,” Craig Carpenito, the top federal prosecutor in New Jersey who was tapped by the attorney general last week to lead the task force, told CNN
Federal agents first confronted Feldheim outside his home Sunday, where he reportedly lied about owning and selling large quantities of supplies. He also allegedly coughed towards the agents, telling them he had tested positive for the virus, authorities said.
The following day, Justice Department prosecutors in Newark charged Feldheim with assaulting federal officers and making false statements to law enforcement. Carpenito told CNN prosecutors were still investigating and considering charges of hoarding and price gouging under the Defense Production Act.
Feildheim’s defense lawyer, James Moriarty, denied the charges and said his client had not entered a plea yet, according to Reuters.
As far as the seized goods, Health and Human Services said it used its Defense Production Act authority to take possession of the items for the US government and will pay Feldheim the “fair market value” for them. The materials were inspected and redistributed to the health departments of New York State, New Jersey, and New York City, the authorities said.
In a message sent to his F.B.I. colleagues sent Thursday, the special agent in charge of the F.B.I.’s Newark office, Gregory W. Ehrie, said the efforts of law enforcement officers were making a difference during the healthcare crisis.
“It is gratifying when the challenging and risky work of our agents has such positive and tangible results,” Ehrie wrote.
“Profiteers need to be aware that we are looking for them and will do whatever necessary to help stem the tide of this crisis. The public needs to know that they are a force multiplier in our efforts and should bring us any information that could curtail criminal activity.”
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (Reuters) (Fox News)
White Supremacist Propaganda Reached Record High in 2022, ADL Finds
“We cannot sit idly by as these extremists pollute our communities with their hateful trash,” ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said.
White supremacist propaganda in the U.S. reached record levels in 2022, according to a report published Wednesday by the Anti-Defamation League’s Center of Extremism.
The ADL found over 6,700 cases of white supremacist propaganda in 2022, which marks a 38% jump from the nearly 4,900 cases the group found in 2021. It also represents the highest number of incidents ever recorded by the ADL.
The propaganda tallied by the anti-hate organization includes the distribution of racist, antisemitic, and homophobic flyers, banners, graffiti, and more. This propaganda has spread substantially since 2018, when the ADL found just over 1,200 incidents.
“There’s no question that white supremacists and antisemites are trying to terrorize and harass Americans with their propaganda,” ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said in a statement. “We cannot sit idly by as these extremists pollute our communities with their hateful trash.”
The report found that there were at least 50 white supremacist groups behind the spread of propaganda in 2022, but 93% of it came from just three groups. One of those groups was also responsible for 43% of the white supremacist events that took place last year.
White supremacist events saw a startling uptick of their own, with the ADL documenting at least 167, a 55% jump from 2021.
Propaganda was found in every U.S. state except for Hawaii, and events were documented in 33 states, most heavily in Massachusetts, California, Ohio, and Florida.
“The sheer volume of white supremacist propaganda distributions we are documenting around the country is alarming and dangerous,” Oren Segal, Vice President of the ADL’s Center on Extremism said in a statement. “Hardly a day goes by without communities being targeted by these coordinated, hateful actions, which are designed to sow anxiety and create fear.”
“We need a whole-of-society approach to combat this activity, including elected officials, community leaders, and people of good faith coming together and condemning this activity forcefully,” Segal continued.
See what others are saying: (Axios) (The Hill) (The New York Times)
Adidas Financial Woes Continue, Company on Track for First Annual Loss in Decades
Adidas has labeled 2023 a “transition year” for the company.
Adidas’ split with musician Kanye West has left the company with financial problems due to surplus Yeezy products, putting the sportswear giant in the position to potentially suffer its first annual loss in over 30 years.
Adidas dropped West last year after he made a series of antisemitic remarks on social media and other broadcasts. His Yeezy line was a staple for Adidas, and the surplus product is due, in part, to the brand’s own decision to continue production during the split.
According to CEO Bjorn Gulden, Adidas continued production of only the items already in the pipeline to prevent thousands of people from losing their jobs. However, that has led to the unfortunate overabundance of Yeezy sneakers and clothes.
On Wednesday, Gulden said that selling the shoes and donating the proceeds makes more sense than giving them away due to the Yeezy resale market — which has reportedly shot up 30% since October.
“If we sell it, I promise that the people who have been hurt by this will also get something good out of this,” Gulden said in a statement to the press.
However, Gulden also said that West is entitled to a portion of the proceeds of the sale of Yeezys per his royalty agreement.
Adidas announced in February that, following its divergence from West, it is facing potential sales losses totaling around $1.2 billion and profit losses of around $500 million.
If it decides to not sell any more Yeezy products, Adidas is facing a projected annual loss of over $700 million.
Outside of West, Adidas has taken several heavy profit blows recently. Its operating profit reportedly fell by 66% last year, a total of more than $700 million. It also pulled out of Russia after the country’s invasion of Ukraine last year, which cost Adidas nearly $60 million dollars. Additionally, China’s “Zero Covid” lockdowns last year caused in part a 36% drop in revenue for Adidas compared to years prior.
As a step towards a solution, Gulden announced that the company is slashing its dividends from 3.30 euros to 0.70 euro cents per share pending shareholder approval.
Adidas has labeled 2023 a “transition year” for the company.
“Adidas has all the ingredients to be successful. But we need to put our focus back on our core: product, consumers, retail partners, and athletes,” Gulden said. “I am convinced that over time we will make Adidas shine again. But we need some time.”
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (CNN)
Immigration Could Be A Solution to Nursing Home Labor Shortages
98% of nursing homes in the United States are experiencing difficulty hiring staff.
The Labor Crisis
A recent National Bureau of Economic Research paper has offered up a solution to the nursing home labor shortage: immigration.
According to a 2022 American Health Care Association survey, six in ten nursing homes are limiting new patients due to staffing issues. The survey also says that 87% of nursing homes have staffing shortages and 98% are experiencing difficulty hiring.
The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) outlined in their paper that increased immigration could help solve the labor shortage in nursing homes. Immigrants make up 19% of nursing home workers.
With every 10% increase in female immigration, nursing assistant hours go up by 0.7% and registered nursing hours go up by 1.1% And with that same immigration increase, short-term hospitalizations of nursing home residents go down by 0.6%.
Additionally, the State Department issued 145% more EB-3 documents, which are employment-based visas, for healthcare workers in the 2022 fiscal year than in 2019, suggesting that more people are coming to the U.S. to work in health care.
However, according to Skilled Nursing News, in August of 2022, the approval process from beginning to end for an RN can take between seven to nine months.
Displeasure about immigration has exploded since Pres. Joe Biden took office in 2021. According to a Gallup study published in February, around 40% of American adults want to see immigration decrease. That is a steep jump from 19% in 2021, and it is the highest the figure has been since 2016.
However, more than half of Democrats still are satisfied with immigration and want to see it increased. But with a divided Congress, the likelihood of any substantial immigration change happening is pretty slim.