U.S. Attorney General William Barr on Monday vowed vigorous enforcement against unlawful profiteering from the coronavirus crisis, warning the hoarding of scarce “health and medical resources” to drive up prices and make a windfall will draw the attention of the U.S. Justice Department.
Barr, appearing next to President Donald Trump at the White House, said a prosecutor in each U.S. attorney’s office across the country has been tasked with leading the pursuit of fraud and other crimes stemming from the coronavirus outbreak.
Speaking at the daily briefing on the Trump administration’s response to the global health crisis, Barr said the enforcement against price gouging would focus on those hoarding medical equipment, such as masks, on an “industrial scale” with the goal of influencing the market.
“If you are sitting on a warehouse with masks—surgical masks—you will be hearing a knock on your door,” he said.
Barr’s appearance came just days after the Justice Department filed its first lawsuit stemming from the attorney general’s call to crack down on fraud related to the novel coronavirus.
In Texas federal court, the Justice Department targeted the operators of the website “coronavirusmedicalkit.com,” accusing them of fraudulently seeking to profit off the “confusion and widespread fear” surrounding the pandemic.
The website purported to offer World Health Organization vaccine kits in exchange for a $4.95 shipping charge, to be paid by credit card, when in fact there are no legitimate vaccines to treat COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.