Krikor Topouzian, a 60-year-old Winnetka man, has been charged with one count of violating the Defense Protection Act of 1950. According to the court document, Topouzian was allegedly involved in price gouging customers who were seeking to purchase N-95 masks. At that time, N-95 masks were scarce due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Topouzian is the owner and president of a medical supply company based in Skokie, Illinois. The criminal complaint filed against him in US District Court in Chicago stated that he accumulated 79,160 respirator masks in March and April at the rate of $5.08 per mask. These respirator masks included N-95 masks as well.
The complaint alleged him of selling those masks at the rate of $19.95 per mask later on. He went against the guidelines and warning issued by the federal and local authorities. The law enforcement officials also gave warnings about the illegal nature of his conduct. Topouzian allegedly gained a markup of approximately 185% to 367% per mask.
The Defense Protection Act stops retailers from selling personal protective equipment at large markups during a global health crisis. John R. Lausch, Jr., the US attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, Kwame Raoul, the attorney general of Illinois, and Emmerson Buie, Jr., the special agent-in-charge of the FBI’s Chicago Field Division, announced the charge. The office of the US attorney is committed to taking actions against those who try to gain illegal profits from the sale of scarce PPE.
Buie said, “Illegal price gouging on critically scarce medical equipment during a global pandemic is reprehensible.” “Today’s charges should send a strong message that we will not tolerate any attempt to take advantage of individuals and medical professionals in the midst of a global pandemic,” said Raoul. He appreciated the work of the US attorney’s office and FBI in terms of stopping price gouging during the coronavirus pandemic.