Police send N95 masks confiscated from price gougers to coronavirus front lines

A confiscated haul of critical medical gear, including nearly 200,000 N95 respirator masks, is making its way to health workers, says the US Department of Justice.

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Originally hailing from Troy, Ohio, Ry Crist is a writer, a text-based adventure connoisseur, a lover of terrible movies and an enthusiastic yet mediocre cook. A CNET editor since 2013, Ry's beats include smart home tech, lighting, appliances, broadband and home networking.
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N95 masks are in desperately short supply.

James Martin/CNET

After hoarders amassed more than half a million pieces of personal protective equipment, including almost 200,000 N95 respirator masks, the FBI swooped in. On Thursday, the Department of Justice said the confiscated gear has been inspected for safety and is being sent to the coronavirus front lines in New Jersey and New York.

"If you are amassing critical medical equipment for the purpose of selling it at exorbitant prices, you can expect a knock at your door," said Attorney General William Barr in a release. "The Department of Justice's COVID-19 Hoarding and Price Gouging Task Force is working tirelessly around the clock with all our law enforcement partners to ensure that bad actors cannot illicitly profit from the COVID-19 pandemic facing our nation."

The FBI discovered the supplies on March 30 and alerted the Department of Health and Human Services. From there, the goods, which also include hundreds of thousands of gloves, gowns and disinfectants, were redistributed to health care workers under the Defense Production Act.

The owner of the hoarded supplies wasn't named, but HHS says that party will be paid fair market value for the confiscated goods.

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