Coronavirus

Coronavirus: Accused price gouger in N-95 mask lawsuit looks to ‘set record straight’

COLUMBUS — UPDATE @ 11:27 p.m. (April 15): Mario F. Salwan of Chagrin Falls, accused in a lawsuit brought by Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost of price gouging involving selling N-95 masks above retail on eBay, said he bought the masks well before the coronavirus pandemic and wants to make things right.

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“I’m sorry I did this,” Salwan told News Center 7′s Sean Cudahy on Wednesday night, noting that he intends to donate the masks he has left to health care facilities in northeast Ohio.

In a statement sent to WHIO-TV by a Beachwood, Ohio, law firm claiming to represent Salwan, the northern Ohio man said he bought approximately 2,800 masks in March 2019 for his construction company crew. When so many construction companies stopped work because of the pandemic, he said he put a 10-pack of masks up for auction on eBay.

“The box sold for $370.50,” he told Cudahy. He then offered more of the masks for sale for up to $375 per box.

Salwan said he sold the masks to keep his business afloat and to generate income. He said he wanted to set the record straight about what happened with the masks, which also are used by first responder paramedics, law enforcement and health care workers.

INITIAL REPORT (April 14)

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost filed a lawsuit Tuesday against a group of people accused of hoarding N-95 masks and selling them on eBay for nearly 18 times the retail price, according to the AG’s office.

The lawsuit accuses Mario F. Salwan of Chagrin Falls, and other co-conspirators, of acquiring N-95 masks and operating a store on eBay under the user name “Donkey476,” an Ohio AG spokesperson said in a media release.

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“The group ramped up operations during March and acquired more than 1,200 N95 masks. Its bulk purchases set the stage for them to reap exorbitant profits from the ongoing public health crisis, and added to the growing shortage of N-95 masks available in the marketplace for purchase by both Ohioans with health concerns and health-care workers," the spokesperson said.

A pack of 10 N-95 masks were sold by “Donkey476” for an average of $363.43, which averages to around $36.34 per mask. Before the pandemic the average retail price for an N-95 mask was $2.05 per mask, the Ohio AG’s office said.

The lawsuit was filed as a violation of the Valentine Act, Ohio’s antitrust law. The act allows the attorney general’s office the ability to take action against those attempting to restrain trade or monopolize markets in the state, the office said.

“The hoarding of an item and the related increase in prices of that item constitute an unreasonable and unlawful restraint of trade, a violation of the Valentine Act.”

The lawsuit is seeking a temporary restraining order against “Donkey476” for selling items, and have the users surrender all remaining N-95 masks to the state for reasonable compensation.



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