LONG ISLAND CITY, Queens — Authorities arrested a man after they seized more than 1.7 million counterfeit masks and other PPE from a Queens warehouse, according to the Queens district attorney.
Following investigation by the district attorney’s Frauds Bureau, authorities raided a two-floor warehouse described to be “dirty and dusty” along 51st Avenue in Long Island City with piles of boxes of 3M-labeled N95 respirator masks.
Both floors of the warehouse contained “stacks and stacks” of the boxes, according to District Attorney Melinda Katz.
In total, 1,788,340 masks were seized in addition to hundreds of thousands of other PPE, including, brand-named hand sanitizers and disinfecting wipes, children’s masks, construction masks and gowns.
“We are living in a horrible pandemic with more than 450,000 Americans dead from Covid-19. This defendant allegedly sold false hope and security and was set to sell more of these counterfeit masks to whomever would pay his price. Masks are life-saving equipment for our medical professionals. Every day these essential workers are putting their lives – and their family’s lives – at risk providing healthcare to those affected by this heartless disease. We have confiscated the bogus merchandise and none of these unsafe masks will be distributed to the public or healthcare workers going forward,” Katz said in a statement.
Investigators posed as undercover buyers and purchased masks on several occasions to verify the masks’ authenticity, according to Katz.
They were offered for sale at prices ranging from $2.95 to $3.25 each, whereas 3M’s suggested retail price for the masks is $1.27 each.
Zhi Zeng, 33, was taken into custody and faces charges of trademark counterfeiting for possession and selling fake 3M labeled medical masks, Katz said.
If convicted, Zeng faces up to 15 years in prison.