Operation Stolen Promise was launched in April by Homeland Security working with other law enforcement and the private sector, notably 3M, to investigate Covid-19 related fraud and this resulted in a press conference announcement on February 17th by Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas that more than 11 million counterfeit N95 respirator masks had been seized, including hundreds of thousands of masks discovered in an east coast warehouse during a raid.
Mayorkas said Homeland Security agents had been investigating cases in five states across the U.S. over the past two weeks. More raids, he said, are expected over the next few weeks.
“We are at a vulnerable time, of course, with the pandemic costing so many lives and causing so much harm,” Mayorkas said at the press conference. “And that individuals, criminals exploit our vulnerabilities for a quick buck is something that we will continue to aggressively pursue.”
Mayorkas noted that the initial leads on the investigation came from 3M, which reported that suspected counterfeit masks were being purchased for health-care workers and first responders.
DHS officials declined to identify where the raids occurred, saying that they cannot comment on an ongoing investigation. Criminal charges are forthcoming, they said. DHS said they have notified about 6,000 suspected victims of the fraud in at least 12 states, including hospitals, medical facilities and others who may have purchased medical masks from what Mayorkas described as a “criminal enterprise.”