U.S Attorney Coleman Seeks Help From Local Hospitals In Reporting Hoarding And Price Gouging Of Medical Supplies
LOUISVILLE, Ky. – United States Attorney Russell Coleman today sent a letter to hospital executives in the Western Kentucky, asking them to provide details to law enforcement about individuals and companies that might be acquiring or selling medical supplies for the purpose of hoarding or price gouging.
“Attorney General Barr has been crystal clear that we are to use every tool in our tool kit to protect Americans at this time of national challenge from fraud and predatory practices,” said U.S. Attorney Russell Coleman. “In Kentucky, one of those tools is the leadership of our many fine hospitals, from Western Baptist to UofL and everywhere in between.”
The letter was sent to hospitals and healthcare systems in Western Kentucky, as part of a coordinated, nationwide effort to combat COVID-19 related fraud. On March 20, Attorney General William Barr directed all 93 U.S. Attorneys to prioritize the investigation and prosecution of COVID-19 fraud. U.S. Attorney Coleman appointed Assistant United States Attorney David Weiser to lead the Office’s COVID-19 response. The Office is also partnering with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Kentucky, the FBI Louisville Field Division, and the Kentucky Attorney General’s Office as part of the Kentucky Coronavirus Fraud Task Force.
U.S. Attorney Coleman encourages the public to report COVID-19 related fraud to the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) hotline at 1-866-720-5721 or to the email address firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read U.S. Attorney Coleman’s letter to hospital leadership below:
As the United States Attorney for the Western District of Kentucky, I am the chief federal law enforcement officer in an area encompassing 53 counties and a population of 2.2 million Kentuckians. Our office’s primary responsibility is to enforce the laws of the United States on behalf of the citizens we serve; your same patient population. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, our office is prioritizing the deterrence, investigation, and prosecution of wrongdoing related to the COVID-19 pandemic – including those engaged in hoarding and/or price-gouging with regard to critical medical supplies. These practices are not only morally repugnant in light of the pandemic we are facing, but also, if left unchecked, can inhibit hospitals, physicians and other health care professionals, governmental agencies, and the public from fully implementing measures designed to save lives and mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus.
By Executive Order dated March 23, 2020, President Trump delegated to the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) the authority to designate materials critical to our the fight against COVID-19 as “scarce” pursuant to the Defense Production Act of 1950. On March 25, 2020, the HHS Secretary designated 15 categories of health and medical supplies as “scarce,” thus triggering both criminal prohibitions and civil enforcement remedies that our office will aggressively enforce. These categories currently include:
- N-95 Filtering Facepiece Respirators;
- Other Filtering Facepiece Respirators (e.g., those designated as N99, N100, R95, R99, R100, or P95, P99, P100);
- Elastomeric, air-purifying respirators and appropriate particulate filters/cartridges;
- Powered Air Purifying Respirator (PAPR);
- Portable Ventilators;
- Chloroquine phosphate or hydroxychloroquine HCl;
- Sterilization services for certain medical devices and certain sterilizers;
- Disinfecting devices and other sanitizing and disinfecting products suitable for use in a clinical setting;
- Medical gowns or apparel, e.g., surgical gowns or isolation gowns;
- Personal protective equipment (PPE) coveralls, e.g., Tyvek Suits;
- PPE face masks;
- PPE surgical masks;
- PPE face shields;
- PPE gloves or surgical gloves; and
- Ventilators, anesthesia gas machines modified for use as ventilators, and positive pressure breathing devices modified for use as ventilators, ventilator tubing connectors, and ventilator accessories.
In this time of critical shortage, we are asking for your assistance in identifying individuals and companies that may have acquired vital medical supplies in excess of what they would reasonably use, or for the purpose of charging exorbitant prices. Our office is committed to investigating and prosecuting any such incidents as well as any other fraudulent conduct designed to benefit from this pandemic (e.g., false treatments, tests, and/or vaccinations for COVID-19). In furtherance of this goal, I have created a federal COVID-19 Task Force, led by Assistant United States Attorney (AUSA) David Weiser, to investigate and prosecute these crimes. If you have any information related to this topic, I ask that you please contact AUSA Weiser at 502-625-7068 or by email at email@example.com. I too, am always available to be of assistance and can be reached at (502) 582-5911 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
With help from institutions like yours, the Department of Justice is using every available measure ensure that these scarce materials are available to treat those affected by the coronavirus. I am deeply grateful for the vital work that you do on a daily basis and for your institution’s commitment to the people of Kentucky. I look forward to collaborating with you to protect the citizens of our Commonwealth and enforce the laws of the United States during this time of national emergency.
Russell M. Coleman
United States Attorney