Local, state and federal authorities announced on Friday the seizure of thousands of unapproved face masks and unauthorized test kits in Lockport.
Homeland Security Investigations Buffalo special agents, officers from U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Niagara County Sheriff’s Department, working with the United States Attorney’s Office for the Western District of New York, seized more than 22,000 non-FDA approved KN-95 masks and 1,000 non-FDA approved COVID-19 test kits from Sunbeam Labs, a company located on Donner Road. The test kits and face masks were mislabeled and seized for wire fraud and in violation of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. The seizure is part of an ongoing criminal investigation, authorities said.
“The production and sale of unapproved masks and fake test kits not only harms legitimate manufacturers of such products, but even more egregiously, jeopardizes the health and safety of those who are duped into using them,” said James P. Kennedy, Jr., U.S. Attorney for the Western District of New York. “We have a zero tolerance policy for this dangerous type of fraud, and working with our partners in law enforcement, we will use every tool available to protect our already vulnerable populace.”
The merchandise was seized as part of Operation Stole Promise, a large-scale law enforcement operation started in April in an effort to prevent and investigate illegal criminal activity surrounding the pandemic, strengthen global supply-chain security and protect the American public. Operation Stolen Promise combines HSI’s expertise in global trade, financial fraud, international operations and cyber-crime to investigate financial fraud schemes, the importation of prohibited pharmaceuticals and medical supplies, websites defrauding consumers, and any other illicit criminal activities associated with the virus that compromises legitimate trade or financial systems or endangers the public.
Since commencement of the initiative, HSI Buffalo special agents have opened several investigations and seized various fraudulent COVID-19 related merchandise.
“Criminal groups that would seek to profit off of a global pandemic have no regard for the health of their potential customers,” said Kevin Kelly, special agent in charge of HSI Buffalo. “HSI and our law enforcement partners are working around the clock to warn the public of the health and safety risks involved in buying and using these fraudulent and tampered products and to ensure these unsafe products are pulled from the marketplace.”
The HSI led IPR Center, which stands at the forefront of the United States government’s response to combatting global intellectual property theft and enforcing international trade laws, is working with its 25 federal and industry partners to identify, interdict, and investigate individuals, companies, and criminal organizations illegally importing COVID-19-related products.
The public is urged to report suspected COVID-19 fraud to COVID19FRAUD@DHS.GOV.