- 45-year-old Amardeep Singh was charged under the Defense Productions Act for hoarding and reselling medical supplies at inflated prices during the coronavirus pandemic.
- Before federal agents stepped in, Singh was repeatedly cited for violations related to his sales and even issued a cease and desist order by the office of NY’s Attorney General.
- Item’s seized from him included 100,000 face masks, 5,000 face shield, 10,000 surgical gowns, 2,500 full-body isolation suits, and more than 500,000 pairs of disposable gloves.
- He faces up to a year in prison if convicted, but his attorney said Singh has done nothing wrong by selling the supplies and was not price gouging when selling the goods.
How It Began
A man in New York has become the first person to be hit with federal charges under the Defense Production act for hoarding and price gouging desperately needed medical supplies during the coronavirus pandemic.
Before the virus outbreaks were a huge concern, 45-year-old Amardeep “Bobby” Singh was mostly selling clothing and shoes online and at his store in Plainview, New York. However, by mid-March, he began accumulating medical supplies that are highly sought after, especially within the state.
He allegedly set aside a section of his store for “COVID-19 Essentials,” selling them at inflated prices, according to a statement from the Justice Department.
Singh first caught the attention of authorities on March 18, when he was cited by Nassau County officials for engaging in “unconscionable trade practices.” That citation was related to Singh selling individual N95 masks packaged in Ziploc bags in violation of the state’s consumer protection laws.
Between March 19 and March 31, he was hit with six more citations for selling outdated supplies and items without proper labeling or instructions. Then on April 1, the state attorney general’s office issued a cease and desist order against his business for price gouging.
But even after all that, Singh apparently continued hoarding and selling, prompting federal prosecutors to step in.
In a criminal complaint against him, prosecutors say he even marketing the items on social media, showing the gear and letting people know what was in stock.
Federal authorities said that between March 25, 2020 and April 8, 2020, Singh allegedly received 40 shipments of disposable face masks, 14 shipments of disposable surgical gowns, six shipments of hand sanitizer, seven shipments of digital thermometers.
On April 14, U.S. Postal Service inspectors seized more than 23 pallets of equipment from him. This included 100,000 face masks, 5,000 face shield, 10,000 surgical gowns, 2,500 full-body isolation suits, and more than 500,000 pairs of disposable gloves.
The court documents also list the estimated markups for each item he sold. For instance, Singh allegedly offered face shields for $9.99, a 222% markup, after acquiring them at a cost of $3.10. Disposable face masks were marked up 1,328% from 7 cents each to $1.
Some of the places he allegedly price-gouged were vulnerable organizations like the Association to Benefit Children, the New York Foundation for Senior Citizens, and Rewarding Environments for Adult Living
Singh Faces 1 Year in Prison
Singh was charged with violating the Defense Production Act of 1950 in what authorities described as the first such prosecution during the coronavirus pandemic. Trump signed the DPA on March 18, which among other things, makes it is illegal to hoard and resell scarce medical supplies needed to treat the outbreaks.
Singh is expected to surrender to authorities next week and he faces up to one year in prison if convicted, However, his attorney, Bradley Gerstman, said his client did not price-gouge anyone.
“This is a man trying to make a living,” Gerstman told BuzzFeed News. “He’d never gouge. He’s a family man who has run a store for people in the community for 25 years. He’s got three young daughters, and we’re going to plead not guilty and then we will show by way of evidence that our client has done nothing wrong.”
Gertsman called the charges “mostly fiction” and said the criminal complaint misstates his client’s costs.
“This is news to everybody in the country that selling [personal protective equipment] is illegal under the Defense Production Act,” said Gerstman told Buzzfeed. “I can understand civil fines and penalties, but here we have a matter where my client is now subjected to criminal charges for something that he had no idea he was doing was wrong.”
“If selling PPE goods is improper or criminal, then a lot of people need to go to jail,” Gerstman said in a telephone interview with TIME.
“The Defense Production Act is wildly vague, and I don’t think this would pass muster on any appellate level. I think this statute would be struck down as null and void.”
Federal officials, on the other hand, have slammed Singh’s actions as un-American.
“During a crisis of this magnitude, we must come together as a country to fight this common enemy,” said Philip R. Bartlett, inspector in charge for the U.S. Postal Inspection Service’s New York division. “Unfortunately, Mr. Singh allegedly chose to use this opportunity to make money by hoarding and price-gouging [personal protective equipment]. The conduct charged in the complaint is reprehensible and against our most fundamental American values.”
George Floyd’s Family Calls for First-Degree Murder Charge and Arrests of Other Officers
- The former officer who was seen on video pressing his knee into the back of George Floyd’s neck has been charged with Third-degree murder and manslaughter.
- Hennepin County Attorney Michael Freeman said he expects the three other fired officers who were at the scene to be charged, but felt Chauvin’s case was important to handle first.
- Floyd’s family issued a statement calling for a First-degree murder charge instead, as well as the arrest of the other officers.
- New footage of the incident also circulated online, showing how close those other officers were to Floyd during the arrest.
Chauvin Arrested and Charged
After days of violent protests and widespread demands for justice, former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was arrested and charged for the death of George Floyd.
Chauvin was fired Tuesday, along with three other officers involved in the detainment of Floyd, with Chauvin specifically identified as the man who pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes.
Chauvin and the other officers detained Floyd in handcuffs Monday after he allegedly used a counterfeit bill at a convenience store. But outrage grew after video of the arrest was released, which showed 46-year-old Floyd, who was unarmed, repeatedly stating that he couldn’t breathe as the officer held his position. Floyd eventually lost consciousness and was pronounced dead at the hospital.
Chauvin was taken into custody Friday morning, according to Minnesota Department of Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington. A short time after that news broke, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced that Chauvin was charged with Third-degree murder and manslaughter.
“We entrust our police officers to use certain amounts of force to do their job to protect us. They commit a criminal act if they use this force unreasonably,” he said.
Freeman also said he anticipated that charges would come against the other three officers, however, he said, “We felt it was appropriate to focus on the most dangerous perpetrator. This case has moved with extraordinary speed.”
Freeman said that the criminal complaint would be completed and available later in the day. As of now, the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) and the FBI are both investigating Floyd’s death.
If convicted of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter, Chauvin would face up to 25 years in prison on the first charge and up to 10 years on the second.
Third-degree murder means an offender did not intend to kill, but that someone died “by perpetrating an act eminently dangerous to others and evincing a depraved mind, without regard for human life.”
For this reason, many are unsatisfied with the level of the charge. Others are calling for all officers involved to face repercussions and are frustrated by all of the pleading and widespread calls for justice that it took for charges to come in the first place.
Floyd Family’s Response
The family of George Floyd seems to share a similar opinion. They responded to news of the charges in a statement shared by their attorney, Benjamin Crump.
In it, they said the arrest was a “welcome but overdue step on the road to justice.” However, they added that they expected and want a First-degree murder charge.
“We call on authorities to revise the charges to reflect the true culpability of this officer,” the statement continued.
The family also noted that the other officers should also face consequences as well. “For four officers to inflict this kind of unnecessary, lethal force – or watch it happen – despite outcry from witnesses who were recording the violence – demonstrates a breakdown in training and policy by the City.”
“We fully expect to see the other officer who did nothing to protect the life of George Floyd to be arrested and charged soon.”
New Video Angle
Also on Friday, details from the medical examiner’s report were released.
“Mr. Floyd had underlying health conditions including coronary artery disease and hypertensive heart disease,” said the complaint from the Hennepin County Attorney. “The combined effects of Mr. Floyd being restrained by police, his underlying health conditions and any potential intoxicants in his system likely contributed to his death,” it added.
New video also appeared on social media that appears to better show just how close those other officers were during the arrest, according to CNN and NBN News. In it, two of the officers appear to be kneeling, though it’s unclear if they are placing their knees on Floyd’s body or on the ground.
The footage was filmed from the opposite side of where the more widely viewed footage featuring Chauvin was captured. It has further pushed the argument that the officers were complicit in his death and should be charged accordingly.
See what others are saying: (The Guardian) (Wall Street Journal) (The New York Times)
Twitter Places Warning on Trump and White House Tweets for “Glorifying Violence”
Photo by Doug Mills-Pool
- President Trump tweeted about protestors in Minneapolis Thursday night, warning that he will call for more control of the demonstrations and adding, “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.”
- That phrase was used in 1967 by Miami Police Chief Walter Headley when describing his plans to crack down on protests in black neighborhoods, and it was considered to have contributed to the city’s race riots in the late 1960s.
- Twitter placed a warning on the post containing the phrase for “glorifying violence,” however, the tweet is still visible because the platform says it may be of public interest.
- Users cannot comment, retweet, or like the post, but retweets with comments are still permitted.
What Did Trump Tweet?
Twitter placed a warning label over a tweet from President Donald Trump after determining that it violated its rules about “glorifying violence.” Many view the move as the latest escalation of tension between Trump and the social media platform.
The tweet flagged was the second in a two-part thread about the ongoing protests in Minneapolis over the death of George Floyd, a black man who was pinned down by a white police officer who pressed his knee over Floyd’s neck for several minutes.
In the first tweet, the president says he “can’t stand back & watch this happen to a great American City, Minneapolis.” That comment was seemingly in reference to reports of looting, fires, and violence happening during demonstrations. Trump then slammed Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, uring him to control the situation otherwise he will send in the National Gaurd.
However, his most controversial comments came in the second post, where he said: “These THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd, and I won’t let that happen. Just spoke to Governor Tim Walz and told him that the Military is with him all the way. Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts. Thank you!”
Of course, many were frustrated with the president’s characterization of protestors as “thugs,” but Twitter’s issue with the post centered around the phrase “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.”
History Behind the Phrase
That phrase was used in 1967 by Miami Police Chief Walter Headley to describe his department’s plans to crack down on protests in black neighborhoods.
At the time, he said, “We don’t mind being accused of police brutality,” adding “They haven’t seen anything yet.” He also characterized black protestors as “young hoodlums who have taken advantage of the civil rights campaign.”
When giving those statements, Headley also claimed that his department hadn’t faced any series problems with “civil uprising and looting” because he let word filter down “that when the looting starts, the shooting starts.”
That comment was met with a ton of outrage and according to The Washington Post, the phrase was considered to have contributed to the city’s race riots in the late 1960s.
In response to Trump’s use of the phrase, Twitter hit the post with a warning which notifies users that the tweet violates its rules against “glorifying violence.”
Twitter did not remove the tweet, as it typically forces users to do under the policy. That’s because, in the past, the company said there is a higher standard when it comes to taking action against messages from world leaders.
Instead, Twitter added in its warning that it “may be in the public’s interest for the Tweet to remain accessible.” However, users are unable to like, reply, or retweet the post. Retweets with comments are still possible.
In a statement about their decision, Twitter reiterated that notice saying: “We’ve taken action in the interest of preventing others from being inspired to commit violent acts, but have kept the Tweet on Twitter because it is important that the public still be able to see the Tweet given its relevance to ongoing matters of public importance.”
White House Shared Trump’s Tweet
Despite Twitter’s actions, the official White House Twitter account quoted Trump’s original tweet with the same text Friday morning.
That tweet was met with the same warning label as Trump’s initial
The White House later shared another post defending the president, arguing that he did not glorify but instead condemned violence. It also tagged Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and said his site’s “biased, bad-faith ‘fact-checkers’ have made it clear: Twitter is a publisher, not a platform.”
Escalating Tensions Between Trump and Twitter
Twitter’s decision to mark the tweets came after the platform took similar action earlier this week, placing a fact check warning over one of the president’s posts for the first time ever.
In that post, Trump falsely claimed that increased access to mail-in voting will lead to extensive voter fraud, despite the fact that experts say voter fraud in the U.S. is incredibly rare.
Trump criticized the warning Tuesday, accusing the company of stifling free speech and by Wednesday said he planned to “strongly regulate” or “close down” social media platforms.
Then on Thursday, Trump signed an executive order that seeks to limit the legal protections under section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which generally protects social media companies from liability for the content posted on their platforms.
After catching wind of Twitter’s latest warning message, Trump threw out more criticism of the platform for allegedly targetting conservatives.
He closed that post with another mention about changing Section 230 and later quoted comments from others speaking in his defense.
Trump later responded to backlash over his looting and shooting statement, saying he doesn’t “want this to happen, and that’s what the expression put out last night meant.”
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (Fox News) (NBC News)
CNN Crew Released From Police Custody After Being Arrested While Reporting Live in Minneapolis
- A CNN crew that was arrested while covering George Floyd protests in Minneapolis has been released from Minnesota State Patrol’s custody.
- Reporter Omar Jimenez, producer Bill Kirkos, and photojournalist Leonel Mendez were detained live on air after asking officers where they should move their setup. CNN says officers arrested them for not moving when told to.
- Minnesota State Patrol tweeted that it released the three upon confirming that they were members of the media in a statement that has received a lot of public criticism.
- CNN says the crew identified themselves as journalists before they were arrested. A CNN reporter also noted that Jimenez, who is black and Latino, was arrested while another white CNN reporter in Minneapolis had little to no issues with police.
CNN Crew Arrested
CNN reporter Omar Jimenez is back on the field after Minnesota State Patrol officers arrested him and his crew while covering protests over the death of George Floyd.
Jimenez and two other crew members were arrested early Friday morning. The incident happened live on air and quickly spread across social media.
Officers were moving to clear an area of downtown Minneapolis when Jimenez asked them where he and his crew should relocate.
“We can move back to where you like. We are live on the air here,” he told the officers, according to footage of the arrest. “Put us back where you want us. We are getting out of your way.”
Jimenez identified himself as a reporter and told the officers he was reporting live. As he was asking the officers where the crew should relocate, he was put in handcuffs.
“Do you mind telling me why I’m under arrest, sir?” Jimenez asked before he was walked out of the scene. Moments later, producer Bill Kirkos and photojournalist Leonel Mendez were arrested as well and taken into police custody.
At one point, it appears that an officer walks away with the camera angled towards the ground. That individual then places it on the group, seemingly unaware that it was still rolling.
CNN Crew Released
The crew was covering the third night of protests over the death of Floyd, an unarmed black man who died after a police officer pressed his knee to his neck for at least eight minutes.
The protests have become increasingly violent as calls for charges against the officers involved in Floyd’s death continue. Some buildings and shops have been vandalized or looted. A police precinct was also set ablaze.
The three CNN staffers were released after a few hours. Jimenez posted a photo of him back in front of the camera in Minneapolis.
“We’re doing okay, now. There were a few uneasy moments there,” Jimenez told CNN.
According to CNN, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz apologized for the incident to the network’s Worldwide President Jeff Zucker Friday morning.
Walz said he “deeply apologizes” for what happened and is working to have the team released from custody immediately.
Walz described the arrests as “unacceptable,” said the crew clearly has the right to be there. He added that he wants the media to be in Minnesota to cover the protests.
Anger at Minnesota State Patrol
According to CNN, Jimenez, Kirkos and Mendez were arrested because they were asked to move and did not.
Minnesota State Patrol sent out a tweet on Friday morning explaining that “in the course of clearing the streets and restoring order” they arrested four people, three of whom worked for CNN. They claimed that they released the trio upon learning they were members of the media.
However, CNN called this statement “inaccurate” because officers were made aware that the three were members of the press before they were arrested.
“Our CNN crew identified themselves, on live television, immediately as journalists,” a tweet from CNN Communications claimed.
The Minnesota State Patrol’s claim that they released the crew once they were confirmed to be reporters was met with backlash online. CNN anchor Jake Tapper responded to the tweet saying “they were live on air the entire time.”
“That’s not what happened. This is a lie,” Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Ava Duvernay tweeted. “We all saw it. This spin is erroneous and disingenuous.”
Others noted that Jimenez, who is black and Latino, was arrested while other white CNN reporters had little to no issues with police.
“My other colleague @joshscampbell is also on the scene in Minneapolis,” said CNN correspondent Abby Phillip. Phillip says that when Campbell told officers he was with CNN, they responded with. “Ok, you’re good.”
“It’s just impossible not to note the difference,” said CNN anchor Alisyn Camerota. “Since the police didn’t give us much of an explanation for what they were doing against the backdrop of these fires burning and George Floyd’s death, it’s impossible not to note the difference here.”