COLUMBUS — A northeast Ohio man accused of bulk online sales of scarce N95 masks at prices of nearly 1,800% more than they cost prior to the pandemic will refund in excess of $15,000 to those who purchased masks from him and reimburse the state for $1,500 of investigative costs, as part of a settlement Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost announced today.
“We will continue to make sure no one unjustly profits by exploiting the anxiety of others during this pandemic,” Yost said. “The settlement also will provide essential equipment to the heroes – our doctors and nurses – who need it the most.”
A lawsuit filed last week against Mario F. Salwan, of Chagrin Falls, stated that he sold packages of 10 N95 masks to 15 purchasers online at prices ranging from $360 to $375 during the COVID-19 outbreak. Further investigation revealed that Salwan sold a total of 42 10-packs of masks during this period for at least $360 each. Prior to the global health crisis, the average retail price was around $2 per mask.
Salwan also agreed under the settlement to transfer 570 N95 masks to the attorney general’s office. The attorney general’s office has donated 560 masks to the MetroHealth System in Cleveland and 10 to the health care professionals who alerted the attorney general’s office of the sales.
“I want to thank Attorney General Yost for his efforts in making sure that these masks are used by front-line personnel,” said Dr. Akram Boutros, MetroHealth president and CEO. “Personal protective equipment like this is invaluable in our community’s fight against COVID-19 because it keeps all care providers safe while they work tirelessly to keep our patients and our community safe.”
In late March, Columbus-based Battelle announced the FDA approved its Critical Care Decontamination System that allowed for N95 masks to be sanitized up to 20 times per mask. The 560 masks transferred under the settlement could result in more than 11,000 uses for first responders and health care professionals.
The attorney general’s office investigation stemmed from a tip made to the office in March 2020.
Ohioans who suspect unfair business practices should contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at www.OhioProtects.org or 1-800-282-0515.