Local man guilty in $317 million N95 mask scam
HOUSTON – A 56-year-old Houston resident has pleaded guilty to a scheme to fraudulently sell 50 million non-existent N95 facemasks to the Australian government, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Jennifer B. Lowery.
In early April 2020, Arael Doolittle attempted to sell 50 million 3M N95 respirator masks to the government of Australia. However, he actually did not possess them.
The Australian government was supposed to pay over $317 million for the masks, but authorities disrupted the transaction before it was completed.
U.S. District Judge Lynn N. Hughes accepted the plea and set sentencing for Oct. 25. At that time, Doolittle faces up tofive5 years in federal prison and a possible $250,000 maximum fine. He has been and will remain in custody pending that hearing.
The Secret Service conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Justin R. Martin prosecuted the case.
On May 17, the Attorney General established the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force to marshal the resources of the Department of Justice in partnership with agencies across government to enhance efforts to combat and prevent pandemic-related fraud. The task force bolsters efforts to investigate and prosecute the most culpable domestic and international criminal actors and assists agencies tasked with administering relief programs to prevent fraud by, among other methods, augmenting and incorporating existing coordination mechanisms, identifying resources and techniques to uncover fraudulent actors and their schemes and sharing and harnessing information and insights gained from prior enforcement efforts. For more information on the Department’s response to the pandemic - https://www.justice.gov/coronavirus.
Anyone with information about allegations of attempted fraud involving COVID-19 can report it by calling the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) Hotline at 866-720-5721 or via the NCDF Web Complaint Form.