Catch Me if You Can: Counterfeit Medical Schemes Persist a Year Into the Global Coronavirus Pandemic

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Snell & WilmerEven before COVID-19, counterfeits within the healthcare industry and military supply chains were a significant issue. COVID-19 may only exacerbate the issue for legitimate suppliers and desperate end-users. On February 18, 2021, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) seized over 100,000 counterfeit 3M surgical masks in Cincinnati, Ohio. CBP determined that the products were imported into the United States from a company in Hong Kong—a country where 3M does not manufacture its N95 respirators.1 Companies like 3M have tried to stay ahead of criminal enterprises that target the public health emergency (PHE) by inducing consumers in fraudulent schemes, selling counterfeit personal protective equipment (PPE), and price gouging. Unfortunately, outsmarting these criminals has proved a daunting task.

Footnotes:
  1. U.S. Customs and Border Protection, 108,000 Counterfeit 3M Surgical Masks Stopped by Cincinnati CBP, Dep’t of Homeland Security, https://www.cbp.gov/newsroom/local-media-release/108000-counterfeit-3m-surgical-masks-stopped-cincinnati-cbp# (last visited Feb. 22, 2021).
  2. Maura Canavan, COVID-19: The perfect storm for counterfeiters, Lexology (Jan. 21, 2021), https://www.lexology.com/library/detail.aspx?g=1891fe55-e964-43df-b224-0663a8e95ea1.
  3. Sai Balasubramanian, Federal Authorities Are Increasingly Finding Counterfeit N95 Masks, Forbes (Feb. 18, 2021), https://www.forbes.com/sites/saibala/2021/02/18/federal-authorities-are-increasingly-finding-counterfeit-n95-masks/?sh=72735cdc9c12.
  4. Collen Long, Feds seize 10 million fake N95 masks in growing COVID-19 investigation, King 5 News (Feb. 17, 2021), https://www.king5.com/article/news/health/coronavirus/10-million-phony-n95-masks-seized-in-covid-19-probe/507-bebd27c5-1d1e-45f3-87d8-324160e2db50.
  5. KING 5 Staff, About 2 million fake N95 masks found in Washington state, pulled from shelves, King 5 News (Feb. 17, 2021), https://www.king5.com/article/news/health/coronavirus/washington-states-hospitals-counterfeit-masks/281-30b04761-4a0a-4838-84c5-01225620bf1e.
  6. Supra note 2.
  7. DW.com, Mexico: Six arrested for selling fake COVID-19 vaccines, Deutsche Welle (Feb. 18, 2021), https://www.dw.com/en/mexico-six-arrested-for-selling-fake-covid-19-vaccines/a-56606348.
  8. U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Maryland, Press Release, Three Baltimore-Area Men Facing Federal Charges for Fraud Scheme Purporting to Sell Covid-19 Vaccines, U.S. Dep’t of Just. (Feb. 11, 2021), https://www.justice.gov/usao-md/pr/three-baltimore-area-men-facing-federal-charges-fraud-scheme-purporting-sell-covid-19.
  9. Marie Rosenthal, Man Charged With Allegedly Selling Fake COVID-19, Cancer Vaccines, Pharmacy Prac. News (Jan. 25, 2021), https://www.pharmacypracticenews.com/Covid-19/Article/01-21/Man-Charged-With-Allegedly-Selling-Fake-COVID-19-Cancer-Vaccines/62345.
  10. Hannah Balfour, Chinese police seize over 3,000 fake COVID-19 vaccines, European Pharm. Rev. (Feb. 8, 2021), https://www.europeanpharmaceuticalreview.com/news/142118/chinese-police-seize-over-3000-fake-covid-19-vaccines/.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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