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Wednesday, March 3rd, 2021

DHS investigators seize 11 million counterfeit respirator masks

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Federal agents with Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) have seized approximately 11 million counterfeit 3M N95 respirator masks in recent weeks.

The effort resulted from a collaboration between the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and manufacturer 3M.

“These seizures illustrate the ongoing efforts of HSI, CBP, and private industry in keeping our communities and medical staff safe and free from counterfeit products,” DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said. “Often, this battle is fought behind the scenes and is unknown to the general public, but you can be assured that the DHS workforce remains firmly committed to protecting the health and safety of our medical workers, the American public, and the integrity of the American economy.”

Overall, HSI has seized counterfeit masks in operations conducted in five states, with more enforcement actions expected in the coming weeks. Federal agents recently seized hundreds of thousands of counterfeit masks from an east coast warehouse as part of an ongoing investigation into a criminal enterprise distributing counterfeit masks.

The initial leads came to HSI through 3M, which shared reports of suspected counterfeits being purchased for healthcare workers. HSI quickly initiated multi-state investigations into the individuals and organizations looking to profit from the sale and distribution of counterfeit N95 respirators.

“3M is proud to partner with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to help combat counterfeiting of 3M N95 respirators,” said Kevin Rhodes, 3M Deputy General Counsel. “This collaboration has helped prevent millions of counterfeit respirators from reaching frontline workers. We are committed to fighting the pandemic from all angles – manufacturing needed PPE, working to prevent counterfeiting, and helping ensure N95s get to where they are needed the most.”

As of Feb. 10, HSI has seized more than $33 million in illicit proceeds; made 227 arrests; served 222 criminal search warrants; opened 862 investigations; and analyzed nearly 80,000 COVID-19 domain names pursuant to Operation Stolen Promise. Operation Stolen promise launched in April 2020 to combat the increasing and evolving threat posed by COVID-19-related fraud and criminal activity.

“The public-private partnerships that are the hallmark of the IPR Center allow for swift and decisive action to protect consumers from fraudulent and potentially harmful or even deadly products. This work which is important on a blue-sky day to protect consumers, U.S. businesses, and the U.S. economy, is even more critical during the COVID-19 pandemic,” ICE Acting Director Tae Johnson said. “The IPR Center with its many government agency and industry partners are unified in their commitment to fight COVID-related fraud.”

HSI is a directorate of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the principal investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Anyone with information on COVID-19-related criminal activity is encouraged to contact HSI at Covid19Fraud@dhs.gov.