Hundreds of thousands of masks that were seized this week from a Brooklyn man who was charged with lying to federal agents about price-gouging will go to medical workers in New York and New Jersey, the authorities said Thursday.
The need for masks and personal protective equipment, known as PPE, is acute in the New York metropolitan region, an epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States.
The stockpile of supplies that were seized included 192,000 N95 respirators, 130,000 surgical masks and nearly 600,000 medical grade gloves, the authorities said. They said they also had recovered surgical gowns, disinfectant towels, particulate filters, hand sanitizer and spray disinfectant.
The man who was charged with lying to federal agents, Baruch Feldheim, 43, charged a doctor $12,000 last month for a large order of masks, gowns and hazmat gear at a 700 percent markup, according to the F.B.I. The agency called it a glaring example of hoarding of medical supplies that are designated as essential under a presidential executive order.
When the doctor went to pick up his order at an auto repair shop in Irvington, N.J., which was being used as a warehouse, he saw so many pallets of medical gear, Clorox wipes and hand sanitizer that it would have been enough to supply an entire hospital, a criminal complaint said.
“Cracking down on the hoarding of vital supplies allows us to distribute this material to the heroic health care workers on the front lines who are most in need,” Alex M. Azar II, the U.S. Health and Human Services secretary, said in a statement on Thursday.
When federal agents first confronted Mr. Feldheim on Sunday, he coughed in their direction and told them that he had tested positive for the coronavirus, the authorities said. He was arrested on Monday and also charged with one count of assault on a federal officer, the criminal complaint said.
Mr. Feldheim’s defense lawyer, James Moriarty, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday night, but Reuters reported that Mr. Moriarty had denied the charges.
In a message on Thursday to his F.B.I. colleagues, Gregory W. Ehrie, the special agent in charge of the F.B.I.’s Newark office, wrote that the efforts of law enforcement officers were making a difference during the health care crisis.
“It is gratifying when the challenging and risky work of our agents has such positive and tangible results,” Mr. 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.”
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said it would pay “fair market value” to the owner of the hoarded equipment.
The materials were inspected and redistributed to the health departments of New York State, New Jersey and New York City, the authorities said.
William K. Rashbaum and Adam Goldman contributed reporting.