Counterfeit masks have been a huge problem for frontline health care workers and first responders, officials indicated.
Homeland Security Investigations’ (HSI) Border Enforcement Security Taskforce (BEST), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the FBI seized more than 460,000 counterfeit surgical masks that were sold to first responders in Seattle alone on Feb. 24, according to a press release.
“Criminal organizations are exploiting the COVID-19 pandemic by selling counterfeit personal protective equipment to unsuspecting American consumers,” said Brian Humphrey, Director of Field Operations for Customs and Border Protection in Seattle. “In conjunction with our law enforcement partners, the vigilant men and women of CBP are working 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to keep these unlawful and unsafe products out of our nation’s hospitals and homes.”
Due to how cheaply the masks are made, counterfeit masks can jeopardize the health and safety of frontline health care workers and can also put the U.S. economy at risk, officials said.
HSI Pacific Northwest is working to eliminate the issue and in a nationwide effort, has seized almost 10 million counterfeit masks throughout the country, according to the press release.
“During a time that we are relying on masks and other personal protective equipment to protect our first responders, health care providers, and members of the public, it is disheartening that these items can sometimes be fraudulent,” said Donald Voiret, the FBI special agent in charge of the Seattle Field Office. “We are grateful for our law enforcement partnerships to remove these products from distribution. The FBI encourages everyone to exercise due diligence and appropriate caution when dealing with unknown vendors and brokers in the supply chain.”