Local man sentenced for $317 million N95 mask scam
HOUSTON – A 56-year-old Houston resident has been ordered to federal prison for scheming to fraudulently sell 50 million non-existent N95 facemasks to the Australian government, announced U.S. Attorney Jennifer B. Lowery.
Arael Doolittle pleaded guilty July 27, 2021.
Today, U.S. District Judge Lynn N. Hughes ordered him to serve a 54-month sentence. At the hearing, the court heard additional evidence that Doolittle had stolen another person’s identity and forged their signature during the commission of the offense. In handing down the sentence, Judge Hughes noted even though there was no actual financial loss in this case, there are still costs associated with cases like this that victims of frauds suffer.
In early April 2020, 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.
Doolittle was also charged and convicted in a separate case for conspiracy to commit wire fraud. In that scheme, he solicited victims to invest in a petroleum trading company. However, Doolittle did not invest their money as promised. He actually used the funds to finance unrelated business and personal expenses. Doolittle defrauded the victims of this petroleum trading scheme out of a total of $1,935,613.95. He was previously ordered to serve a 54-month sentence.
The two sentences are ordered to be served consecutively, resulting in a total of 108 months in prison.
Doolittle has been and will remain in custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.
The Secret Service conducted the investigation of the fraudulent N95 masks. Assistant U.S. Attorney Justin R. Martin prosecuted the case. The FBI investigated the petroleum investment scheme.
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